Monday, August 27, 2012

Glamour shots

We have been busting ass to get the basement kitchen ready for occupancy by friends (family of 4) who came to visit last week. Before they got here, we got the sink plumbed (thank you Ken), rest of the cabinets and counters done, some trim slapped up (but not painted), hid the radiator/last unbuilt area with a curtain, and yanked out all the furniture we've been collecting to make it look like functional rooms. So, without further ado, some nicer photos of the basement, in its functional yet not quite done state. (Bathroom is 90% done, bedroom 95% done, living room about 70% and kitchen maybe 70% excluding the stairway, which is only about half done).

This is what the kitchen area looked like 12 days before guest arrival. Eek - nothing like a deadline!
Bathroom - lookin' good!

Bathroom/laundry area, looking toward bedroom.
Toward bedroom, again.
Bedroom (which contains my favorite bed ever, a Danish modern piece from the '80s that we got for $11 at a yard sale around the corner, which we found when a friend stopped over to show us her new car. We ended up stuffing this bed in the car on the test drive!)
Still bedroom, looking back toward bath).
Bedroom, looking into living room.

Kitchen area, complete except for some trim work.
Kitchen again. Love this view. The microwave & toaster oven are on the stud wall shown in the first photo, way up above. Deadline, schmeadline.
Kitchen, looking toward living room.
I re-wired this just last week - it was a gift (leftover?) from Ken's parents. Ugly and fabulous, now it sports a brand new LED bulb and works great on the vintage Saarinen-style tulip table.
Yeah, I love this table! We just got it when on a camping trip - I saw it on craigslist for $15 (i am not lying) and the seller agreed to hang on to it until we were in the area. Then we just jammed it in our tiny camper at the end of our trip and took it home. Love! Love it. Chairs have since been reupholstered with sassy green & teal retro fabric. They are 2 of 6 I got at the ReStore. Also love them.
More of our collected furniture. We had basically a houseful of mid-century stuff since I'm in love with it all. We have been selling off the extras since there was just too much accumulated.
Living room back toward kitchen and stairs. We now have a small railing up top and I ordered the connectors and such to make an industrial-style pipe railing for the bottom (deadline: Mom & Aunt visit in mid-September. Will we make it?).

Saturday, July 28, 2012

We are checking this off

The screen door is fixed, refinished, and installed! I got to use epoxy filler for the first time (there was one pretty rotten part). Ken used his handy doweling jig to add a piece to the bottom since the door was a couple of inches short. We're freakin' done! Onward.

The only trouble is it lets in so much light we keep spazzing out when we walk by, thinking the door is open and cats/dog are going to escape!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

So close I could screen!

Not a typo. So, the whole point of the rear overhang-porch thingy (see below) was not to:
  1. Avoid creating the "deathtrap ice stairs", as a dear friend calls them;
  2. Keep the rain off our heads while fumbling for keys with armloads of groceries; or, 
  3. Keep squirrels from chewing through the jammed-in foam pieces to take up residence in the attic. 
No, the real reason we tore off the old rickety overhang and went to all this trouble is to install a $15 screen door we nabbed at an auction a couple of summers ago.

See, when we moved in, there was an aluminum storm door (blech) that was cut down to about 5'8" and a board was screwed to the jamb above, because the old overhang didn't allow a full-height door to open. We got rid of that door and replaced it with a wooden one (yard sale) that we also cut down. We installed a rubber stair tread where that board was, because at least it would flap instead of whack Ken in the head.

This is before. After removing the aluminum door, but before any other work. Yuck, yuck.

Then the $5 yard sale door disintegrated. And we cut the overhang off. And there everything sat. No opening the back door to get a breeze, or to holler to the other person in the yard about anything, or to let the cats sit and meditate about the back yard.

During deck-building. Bye, bye, overhang!
Fast forward to today. The overhang is almost done. We have to caulk a bit and touch up paint, and wait for a piece of replacement vintage-style gutter, but she's together, complete with loads of trim traced from the old rafter tails to make the overhang look organic to the house.

And now we have to fix the auction screen door (it wasn't perfect, you know, but it did come with both a glass pane and a screen pane, and it was once a super-nice door).

Perhaps by the end of the week we can have that summer breeze...

p.s., I just found an old photo of the way, way before - like when we moved in. Geez, that back side of the house was hideous! Some days I can't believe we even bought this place in that condition.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Just in time

We got the overhang's structure re-styled (it needed some bungalow deliciousness, photos to follow when it looks a little more finished), and Ken put on some shingles we got on clearance. They are close enough, since we will need to re-shingle the whole roof next year.

Just minutes after we got off the ladders and cleaned up, it thundered and started pouring. Here's the view of the successful new roof from the upstairs bathroom! A thing of beauty, mis-matched shingles and all.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

And on a different topic...

For, like three years we've had a gnarly cut-off little roof thing over the back door, and when it rains, it pours down your neck. We pulled the old porch roof off because it was ugly, falling down, and just plain wrong. Plus you couldn't have a screen door because there wasn't enough clearance - annoying.

The plan was to make a prettier overhang that goes with the house, allows the screen door (we bought at auction for $15!) to open, and is more symmetrical with respect to the door.

Obviously, we've been putting this job off. It didn't sound real exciting and it sucks to cut into a roof. So we decided to actually hire help - a local guy who had good references, was willing to have us help, and was really nice to work with. He also totally appreciated the mid-morning iced coffee & donuts, so we like that.

It's amazing what you can get done with hired help! A total jump start...he's done here, having only billed us for a few hours, and we will finish the rest out all bungalow-y. Maybe we can get off our arses and get it done-ish this weekend?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

OK, so no pictures today. Tomorrow!

Did get a bunch of miscellaneous trim installed...

Major progress - then root canal

We actually have made massive strides in the living room and kitchen parts of the basement reno. In fact, we had two sets of family stay down there over the past couple of weeks! Our goal was to have the kitchen cabinets (one side) in and ready to go so they could at least make their own coffee. Check! The living room side is actually about 90% done (photos later) and the kitchen on one side is at a similar stage.

However - these photos are from about a couple of weeks ago - before we finished all that up - because then I had a series of dental misfortunes including an out-of-town dentist, ending with a root canal after being totally out of commission for a while. (Amazing how a tooth plus painkillers can completely incapacitate a person!)

So here are the photos from the beginning of June, just before we finished a series of projects and cleaned up. More later this weekend, as I chip away at some trim and other smaller-scale items:

The hallway, looking toward the upstairs door to the kitchen. The 'vintage' stair stringers essentially fell off in May, and were propped up by a 2x4 nailed to an old piece of framing. Super-posh, right? So we ended up shifting focus for a few days to the stairway and hallway. You might remember from last post that the hall basically looked like - how to say? - some kind of patched-together, post-disaster hovel. It's completely unbelievable what a boatload of joint compound and some paint can do (with Ken's excellent JC skills). Still have to paint trim, but it's now a light-filled, pleasant space instead of a scary tunnel to hell.

And the stairs. We cut new stringers, making the stairs more conforming. Before, they had too little headroom at the bottom, irregular rises that were too steep, and a landing that was half-height at the bottom. What else? Oh, right, they fell off and we had to haul the laundry up & down by ladder for a while. That was really cool. So here they are, with temporary treads. We've since made the treads permanent and added risers as well. We re-used the old treads and risers when we could, since that was a lot of good wood and those things are pricey! Still need to paint. The wall is closed in with tile backer board in prep for installing one run of cabinetry (which is now in and update coming soon).

Door to the furnace room. We're almost done closing off the infrastructure part of the basement. This used to be a troll door, about 5' high, which resulted in many a bashed forehead. There was no apparent reason for the troll door, since there's full door height available. I mean, why go to the trouble of dropping a header and cutting down a door? Silliness. This is a salvaged door from the ReStore, $2.99. It was missing the glass or whatever was in the top panel, but the rest was in great shape so we painted it and installed a piece of plywood painted with chalkboard paint in the top. Now we can write cute messages to our guests on the door (or nasty notes if we don't like them).

In a strange coincidence, we had picked up a panel from an old piano from a neighbor's discard pile on the curb and it was sitting around, waiting to be useful. Ken remarked that we should mill a nice chalk tray for the door right about the time I was pondering said piano piece and thinking of tossing it, and as I looked at it, I realized that the music tray on the upper piano panel was essentially a chalk tray, so we unscrewed it, cut about 1/4" off each end, and popped it in the door (coat of varnish too). It looks like it was born there! Our second fab piano usage.

And finally, sneak peek of the kitchenette. It's so teeny, so we can use all sorts of great leftovers and salvage. I got the sage green crackle art tiles at the ReStore (again, like a few bucks) and the white hex time (I've always wanted to have hex tile in the house!) at the ReStore a different day, when of course, I was on foot downtown and ended up walking about a mile with a bag of tile and a baguette in my arms. We've since finished the tiling (had to ask a friend with a wet saw to cut the left-side ones - this crackle glaze chips like mad with a grinder or scorer).

OK, that's about it until I finish some work and take glamour shots later today or tomorrow.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The time it takes

It took about 2-1/2 hours to do this: install the flall (flooring on the wall) on the longest wall of the basement.

It took about a half hour to do this: install a ridiculously shaped set of patches on the stairway ceiling. Don't ask how the holes got this way.

It took about 12 minutes in the shower before my fingers puckered up enough to get the errant liquid nails to rub off.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Is this too boring to blog?


Dusty and boring. And annoying. We're so, so glad that the rest of the house has wonderful, mostly intact vintage plaster. The basement needed something new, though - the old paneling and crummy moist drywall had to go years ago.

All this material came from the ReStore (moisture resistant drywall scraps, about equal to 2-3 sheets, which were $5 for the lot) and from a 'damaged' cart of DensShield (this stuff) from the big box. They wanted $11 (and I had a 10% off coupon to boot!) for the cart full of 12 sheets, so we took it immediately and worried about whether we could use it later.

Turns out that yes, you can use it as wallboard and it can be painted if you skim coat it with JC first. We were shocked to find that the existing stud walls in the cellar were indeed built on 16" center, so the sheets screwed right on perfectly - no long goofy cuts! It took seriously an hour or so to sheathe most of the room (we're only doing the top half again). Ken did the skim today and we are priming - PRIMING - tomorrow night! The primer will really help to make the space look less, umm, Technicolor Dreamcoat? It's very Spring Festival of Pastels down there right now.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Decidedly NOT helping

I took a few minutes on this un-seasonably warm day to sweep off the deck & patio. Actually, un-seasonably strikes me as far too gentle a word - maybe something like anti-seasonably? At any rate, it was hot and sunny and July-ish for Maine. I was sweeping for a couple of minutes on the other side of the deck from Frankie, and I turned around to see this little excavation:

 I guess he was pointing out that we still need a half dozen bricks in that corner.

Some 'helpers' apparently need more direction than I am used to giving. On the other hand, perhaps he can be enticed to till the garden for us...

Monday, March 19, 2012

Last light

Since it's the last day of winter, posting about light seems appropos.

This weekend a landmark event occurred: Ken installed the last - LAST! - light fixture in the house. Period. The whole damn house. We did all the wiring a bit ago, but had to wait until the ceilings were done in the cellar to actually add the fixture to the orphaned wire - and after a Herculean Saturday of ceiling-ness, we installed it on Sunday.

The ceiling in the future living room area has been done for a week or so, after a month of scrubbing, whitewashing, and varnishing above my head.

In the future kitchenette area, the rubber met the road. This was the area where we basically routed all the infrastructure for the house, because it is next to a utility room. So the ceiling couldn't simply be cleaned and done - it needed cladding.

 Enter the gorgeous old boards from last post. The idea is to create something that looks like whitewashed undersides of subfloor, but dropped to hide the wirey mess. I haven't felt so guilty in a while - we scrubbed them clean and then - gasp - whitewashed and cut up those awesome old 5/4" x up to 12" boards (up to 12' long, too) to fit between the joists. (We used up oh-so-much scrap 1 by as cleats on the joists to carry the boards. Sweet!) Don't anyone dare comment that we should have planed them and sold them for a zillion dollars to yuppies for flooring - we know! But we paid $40 for the load, we had them here, and that's what we bought them for.

And there was light. And today, we rested (well, went back to our day jobs).

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Need some wood?

Anyone remember the Presidential debate in 2008 when GWB said this? I think we were rolling on the floor - it was so goofily uttered. But we recently needed some wood. My mission over the past month has been to find old boards. Anything old (we are going to whitewash them) - barn boards, attic boards, subfloor boards. Whatever! Lots of them and decent widths.

The board quest is because in the kitchen area of the cellar, we need to basically make a dropped ceiling, and we plan to make it look like the rest of the cellar ceiling, but just to create panels that look like the underside of subfloor, and hang them down lower. We ran all the wires and other ugly stuff in the kitchen area to keep the rest of the room clear, so we just have one section to cover up.

By the way, I'm done scrubbing the ceiling in the living and kitchen areas and have moved on to whitewashing - sweet!

First I found a guy on craigslist, sort of nearby but we could make another errand in the general vicinity. The guy said I should call his dad. They advertised wood salvaged from old barns that could be made into flooring or whatever - and in the photo, it just looked like a giant wood storage barn. I was salivating. Our budget, as per usual, was as close to $0 as possible. So, I asked if they had any crummy old scraps for cheap - he said sure, they had seconds in a pile that weren't suitable for flooring and would probably work.

So, we loaded ourselves in the truck and took off down un-marked roads (partly dirt) in search of the lumber barn. The dad of the guy we emailed was there. We walked past heads and entrails of hogs he had just slaughtered (nice), and up rickety stairs, being admonished not to step off the 'obvious' places in the attic so we wouldn't fall through. There was the pile. As he began pulling mouse-poop-covered boards out, he started talking about price, and said something about $5 a board foot (for rotten poopy seconds? C'mon, man!). I did my best negotiating but in the end we left empty handed rather than spend several hundred $ on not great lumber - and we only had about sixty-two bucks with us anyways!

Back home, I grumpily typed a 'wanted' email and put it on the e-bulletin board at work. Next morning, a guy emailed and said he had a bunch of old boards in the basement he'd love to get rid of. And was only about 10 miles away. Back in the truck - and we went down cellar to find the motherlode - a whole pile of 5/4 barn/subfloor boards, properly aged, and up to 12" wide! We gave him something like $40 for the pile and quickly packed it up and left! The boards are almost too nice to use - hopefully we'll have extra and can make something sweet with a few pieces.

We are almost done with final insulation and we have some time off in a couple of weeks - the plan is to finish up a bunch of ceiling work and maybe even get to wall sheathing very soon!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Thing of beauty

We were going to label just the smoke alarms' breaker, but I have a label maker and a slight case of OCD, so Ken let me label everything in the panel, from his new schematic and COMPLETED wiring job for the entire house + garage.

That's a lot of wirin', cowboy! Well done.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

In hot water now

We are DONE - officially, completely done - with all of the electrical re-wiring in this house. That means the whole house has been 100% re-wired. Nice going, Ken! The cellar is done and wired and all set for the rest of the remodel. We even did fancy (code) stuff like putting the furnace emergency shutoff where it belongs (top of the stairs). We did a little dance when we put the panel cover back on the breaker box - it's been sitting on the floor for literally years, since we've been constantly upgrading the box.

Speaking of the furnace, we've been steadily making improvements to infrastructure that are allowing us to (1) quit using oil, and as a bonus, (2) have redundant systems for everything. Our heat is from a pellet stove, with pellets made in Maine and emissions that are very low. Our insulation, closing the flue, making all the doors and windows actually close, and other basic projects (like storm windows) cut oil usage in half, even before the pellet stove.

As of Friday, we got our hot water off the oil-fired furnace! This means no running the furnace in the summer (which always seemed ridiculous), and massively reduced oil use in winter. We went with a simple, basic - though well-insulated - electric water heater. It was cheap, easy to install, and based on the energy label, should cost about $40/month to run. A big savings over a couple hundred in oil! And, our electric is primarily from hydropower generated from the river we can basically see from a couple of blocks away - nice to be more renewable and much more local in our energy use. We'll see what happens - but again, Ken did a great job installing this and hot showers after a hike today were just perfect. 

Up next - more insulating (we started and need to find more discount foam).