Monday, January 25, 2010


Our house looks so different from the outside now but of course we still have a lot of work to do for our curb appeal to increase! On Tuesday and Wednesday our tree guy (Snake) removed all the ugly pine trees from the left side of the house, two trees in the front, and ground down all the stumps. He also cut back some overhanging branches on the two large maple trees. It has opened up that side of the house so much and looks much better. Now you can actually see our neighbors oak trees and we’ll be able to grow some grass there. They left us with some logs for the fireplace and a LOT of mulch. We’ll be using a lot of it around the trees in the back and in the rows of our garden.

The tree removal was not only for aesthetics. The pines and leaves were damaging the roof and clogging the gutters. The roots were too close to the foundation and sewer line and threatening the stability of the house. The new roof, gutters, and down spouts (hopefully done this week) will keep the water away from the basement, keeping it dry and livable.

The contractor finished removing the wall in the mudroom (soon-to-be sunroom) and they are supposed to be installing the sliding glass door and windows this week.

This weekend wasn’t very productive in terms of work completed but we were able to make a lot of decisions to move forward. The big decisions involve new windows, new kitchen, and new bathrooms.
It’s amazing the amount of small decisions that are involved in each of the big decisions. Take the kitchen for instance – you have to make decisions about the layout, the floor, the cabinet type, the cabinet color, the countertop type, the countertop color, the appliances, the color of the backsplash, the color of the walls, the cabinet hardware, the light fixtures, the sink faucet, etc., etc. Of course each decision that you make affects what you’ll have to choose for one of the other options. All these decisions should comply, as we learned on Saturday, with the National Kitchen and Bathroom Standards. Otherwise, the resale value will drop because somebody might feel a little too crowded in a 41” walk space or the refrigerator within 24” of the sink.

We are meeting with the planner at Lowes tomorrow to finish our kitchen design and order the cabinets and countertop. The windows will hopefully also be ordered this week. The bathroom is still one of the items that needs work. Right now we are still working towards a move in date in early April.

My parents and brother drove down on Sunday to pick up the radiator covers. My dad has been spending some time each night grinding off the multiple layers of paint from each piece. Once he’s done with the grinding, he’ll be able to prime and paint them. We’re so glad that he offered to do this work – it’s quite a big task!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Un-hole-y House

The week got off to a bad start as the contractor roughed in the plumbing to the pantry that we’re turning into a half bath. There was water left in the basement and a sizeable piece of wood missing from the floor joist. One of the contractors had accidentally cut into a heating pipe and had to fix the heating system. There is still air in the lines but the front bedrooms are getting heat. Once summer arrives we will add bleeder valves to the radiators to avoid this problem in the future. Vince, the general contractor made sure the floor joist was correctly reinforced.

The mudroom just off the den is going to be turned into a sunroom. This was the place the previous owner kept the dogs during the day. It was extremely smelly and scratched up. The contractors removed the windows, doors, and brick wall this week. They will begin the sunroom wall installation soon.

The tree guy was able to remove the last tree on the right side of the house. He had given us an estimate to remove the other trees but it was too high. We got a couple other estimates and hired a guy named Snake. Snake and his crew removed a lot of the trees yesterday and will complete the job today. Once the trees are removed, the roof replacement can begin.

The big project that we tackled over our three day weekend was to repair the 5” holes in the walls. The process wasn’t as straight forward as it seems. The wall varied in thickness from ½ inch to 1 ½ inches. Each room was like a giant puzzle – we had to make sure that we had the right plug in the right hole.

To start the patching process, 1” x 2” boards were cut to 8” lengths. We then had to screw them to the backsides of the walls. We drilled a shallow countersink for each screw. Every plug and hole edge was beveled. The plugs were then screwed to the boards to fill the voids. Even though we tried to work out the puzzle, there were still a lot of plugs with high spots. It was a good opportunity to use our new orbital sander. Dust was everywhere, filling the entire house with a white cloud. Fortunately, it was a very nice day, and we were able to open the windows to let out the dust.

After we sanded all the high spots, we started mixing and applying the drywall compound. We were able to apply two coats to most of the holes before the weekend was over. The contractors told us yesterday that the patches were very well done and were surprised that we were the ones to complete the job. In all, there were about 150 holes to patch. It was a job well worth the effort.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Swiss Cheese House

We had accomplished so much on the house last week that we were both so tired and unmotivated this week. It’s difficult to work all day and still have energy to work on the house (plus it was Bowl Week).

Most of the tasks that were completed were because of the electrician. He fixed the garbage disposal, removed the old stove fan, moved the stove hookup, and connected the dishwasher.

Right around New Year’s we discovered that none of the exterior walls of the house were insulated. We got an estimate from an insulation company and decided to go forward with them. This work required 5” holes being drilled in each stud cavity so that they could blow the insulation in the walls (normally the holes are drilled on the outside of the house but our house is all brick). The contractor drilled all the holes on Monday and the insulation was installed on Thursday.

When we first saw the holes cut in the walls it was a little scary – like living in a house of Swiss cheese. We are going to be the ones repairing the holes in the walls and it will be a very large task. Below are some photos of the holes.

Over the weekend we only had a day and a half to work. Saturday we removed the tile floor in the foyer up to the kitchen. The backer board for this tile floor was the source of some of the dog urine smell in the house. The tile was also extremely slippery when it got wet – not ideal for an entryway. Fortunately, most of the hardwood under the tile was in very good shape but some of the wood in the pantry (soon-to-be half bath) needs a little work. Below are some pictures of the foyer floor.

Sunday we put on an additional coat of drywall compound upstairs. We also started removing the molding and radiator covers. The radiator covers (and screws) have been painted over several times making it very difficult to remove them. My dad has been generous enough to offer to remove all the old paint and repaint them for us.

Next week we have Monday off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and we’re hoping that the three day weekend will allow us time to tackle a large project.

Monday, January 4, 2010

What I did on my Christmas vacation…

We had an extremely productive week after Christmas. Chris had to work all week but my parents and I all took the whole week off and my Uncle Bob also came down for three days to tackle some of the larger projects.

Monday, my parents and I were able to complete the rest of the attic insulation in the morning. The afternoon was spent removing cabinets in the kitchen, removing some of the junk in the yard, and insulating the plumbing in the attic. Also that day the plumber came to fix a lot of the leaks in the system.

Tuesday, we removed the bulkheads in the kitchen, the storm doors and French doors. When removing the French doors we were amazed to find out how they installed them. The original door opening was too wide so they added three boards (2 x 2) and 4 layers of drywall. It is the things like this that make us happy we’re removing all the “new” parts of the house. See the picture below.

Wednesday we installed the drywall where we had just removed the bulkheads in the kitchen. It was rather challenging because not all of the studs or rafters were square or straight.

Thursday through Saturday, we had Uncle Bob to help out, too. We tackled the big project of removing, insulating, and replacing the upstairs ceiling. Thursday, we were able to remove the old ceiling and insulate. While we were removing the ceiling, we found a lot of interesting items. There was a huge wasp’s nest and a light fixture with a ton of stink bug eggs. The first home inspector noticed the wasps in September, but we could not access the nest until the ceiling was removed. We also found what looks like the first ever power strip. Pictures are below.

On Friday and Saturday Chris was able to help out and we were able to install all the drywall, put on the first two coats of drywall compound, and install new light fixtures. We also removed all the old kitchen items that were upstairs – it made it much easier to work!

One challenging part of the work was getting the large sheets of drywall upstairs – we had to do the “Drywall Two Step.” The “Drywall Two Step” involves going into the front door, swinging the drywall to the wall to go in the hallway towards the kitchen, backtracking into the living room while swinging the drywall to go down the hallway and into the walk-in closet, backtracking into the small bedroom, swinging over to the other wall, angling the drywall to go up the stairs and holding it almost vertical to go around the corner of the stairs. Below are some pictures of the work.

Sunday, it was just me and Chris. We were able to add new insulation to the walls of the upstairs – the insulation they had there and above the ceiling was about 1 inch thick. Hopefully adding all this insulation will help us with our heating bills down the road.