27 April 2009


We finally got around to hooking up the circuits for the bedroom lights to the circuit breaker in the basement. We also hooked up the dimmer switches in the room, so we now have fully functioning overhead lights! We really should have done this ages ago, but neither Tom and I weren't comfortable fooling with the breaker box without a thorough tutorial from Paul. (Note: in the following pictures, the lights are all dimmed somewhat. It's not nearly as dark as the pictures make it seem).

Niche in the bedroom.

Bedroom recessed lights.

Hallway leading to closet and bathroom.

Having lights means we'll be able to work past dusk. Back to those all-nighters I remember from college. Ha!

Other progress from the past week:

We started trying ot lay down a sheet of OSB to cover the hole in front of the back door, but we discovered a slight hump in one area that we need to plane down before we can do that. And before we can plane it down, we need to remove a few nailheads from where we need to plane. And before we can do that, we want to reinforce the joists with metal joist hangers. Years of settlement and use have caused the joists to separate slightly from the cross-piece. There's another cross-pieces under it that would support it if the nails failed, so it's not a huge issue. We just want to make extra sure, so we'll add L-shaped brackets for additional strength.

Nails pulling away in floor joists = not so good.

Also, Paul finished the plumbing supply lines for the bathroom sinks. We'll hopefully get the shower and tub supply lines done next time, but we want to have the tub and showerheads in-hand for reference as we do it.

We also compiled a roughly 40-item list of things we need to get at Lowes. Most of the items are CPVC fittings that average less than $2 each. But we've also got some high-ticket items, like the tub and drywall. I hope all those little items gain me a little haggling leverage on the tub. If only Mom lived closer. She'd get me that tub for half price or better! Ha!

In the next week:

1. Run wiring for lights in closet and bathroom.
2. Run wiring for GFCI outlets in bathroom, regular outlets in closet.

20 April 2009

Odds and ends

Tom and I spent most of our waking hours this weekend working at the house. Saturday was mostly spent tying up loose ends in preparation for Sunday's work day. Tom picked up a new lawnmower and I mowed the lawn. My only complaint with the new mower is that the bag for the clippings gets heavy quickly, making the mower difficult to push. The fact that the grass wasn't completely dried from the rain we've been having, and the fact that the weeds were knee-high in places compounded the problem. I don't plan on bagging clippings regularly (I did it this time simply because the grass was so long), so the issue will resolve itself. It looks so good that you can't even tell that the lawn is more than 95% weeds. I've got ideas for landscaping, but that will likely have to wait for next year.

We hung and wired some more recessed lighting. These still need to be wired in to the main breaker box but are otherwise ready to go. I can wire lights and outlets all day long, but I wouldn't touch the service panel if my life depended on it (which it does, which is why I'm not touching it).

On Sunday, we finished the drain and vent rough-in plumbing for the two bathroom sinks and made our basement skylight even bigger. Paul started working on the supply lines for the bathroom, correcting some questionable choices the previous plumbing crew made. Paul also spent a lot of time trying to figure out the funky configuration in our electrical box, and then explaining to Tom how to hook up the circuits. I was there for the explanation, but it mostly went over my head. All I know is: Don't touch the metal stuff, especially above the shut-off breaker.

We spent even more time trying to figure out the lighting in the basement. It seems like it would be wired and working, but if you look at the lights, some of the wires have been cut. We found a notation somewhere saying that the furnace and basement lights were on the same circuit. Our theory is that the load on the circuit was too much and caused the breaker to trip, so they cut out a few lights to lighten the load. I need to find out who did this work so I can be sure to avoid them in the future.

Next weekend, we'll try to finish up the supply lines for the master bathroom and get everything capped off. If we can do that, I'll be able to call the water company to have the water turned on, and pipe-testing will commence. If all goes well, we'll be able to start hanging drywall in no time.

14 April 2009

Criminal mischief

I wish this were a cutesy title in reference to something I designed that goes against traditional design ideas. Unfortunately, it means actual criminal mischief.

I went to the house this morning to work a little bit and found this:

Yes, I know we need to cut the grass.

We found a broken beer bottle on the sidewalk outside, so we're guessing somebody got drunk and stupid. This is the third criminal act we've been aware of since we bought the house. The first was when we put an old toilet outside for the trash, and somebody came along and smashed it to bits. That wasn't such a big deal, since it was garbage anyway. Cleaning up porcelain shards out of the yard wasn't fun, but it didn't cost anything but time. The second was when we found a purse in the side yard, tossed behind the condenser for the HVAC. Again, not such a big deal; we simply had to turn it in (which took several days and a bit of my time, but really cost us nothing). I really hope that once we're moved in and it doesn't look like an abandoned property, this nonsense will stop.

But two things went surprisingly right with this situation. First, only the outside pane was broken. For a beer bottle to have done that to the window (which, for scale, is about 4' wide), it had to have been thrown pretty hard. I'm guessing that the screen helped slow the bottle down enough to where the inside pane was left untouched. So we don't have to worry about figuring out how to keep the house secure without a window there. Secondly, I told the cop that came over to make a police report that it would probably be about $400 to replace. Vandalism isn't covered on our insurance (the premium to have that would have been an additional $900+), and we were worried that this would be another out-of-pocket expense. As it turns out, the damage has to have a replace/repair cost of $500 before it's classified as vandalism, so insurance might help after all. I still have to call our insurance company and check our policy, but hopefully we won't have to pay much if anything.

And after all that, I still wasn't able to get done what I wanted to do this morning. Maybe tomorrow.

09 April 2009

Love affair.

My first issue of Traditional Home magazine came in the mail yesterday, compliments of the Coca-Cola company and my soon-to-be father-in-law. And I have to say, I am in love with the photo featured on the cover!


I love the color on the chairs in the foreground because it can be interpreted as blue, green, or gray depending on accessories and lighting. I love the golden yellow on the couch and the drapes. I love the creamy off-white chosen over a stark white. I love the dark wood tones in the dining area keep the composition grounded and prevent it from being too light. I love that the curves of the wingback chairs and the plush pillows offset and soften the linear form of the couch. I love the restrained use of pattern and reliance more upon the specific pieces of furniture for texture and interest. I love that it's formal and elegant without being overly stuffy. I love the substantial mouldings that give the room character even when all else is stripped away. I love that it's neutral without losing its identity.

Seriously. When can I move in?

Now, if I can only convince Tom that an aspiring architect's best portfolio is her own home, I'll be one step closer to making our house look like it came out of a magazine. I just hope he's not jealous of my love affair with this room.

06 April 2009


How do you like the new basement skylight?:

Hope nobody comes in the back door.

Just kidding, of course. In order to repair a hole in the floor of the master bedroom where a radiator pipe used to come through,

This picture was taken after we removed the surrounding planks, staggering the joints.

we had to take up some hardwood elsewhere. Fortunately, the original builders of the house used the same material for the first floor's subfloor and the finished floor upstairs. That area will be tiled, so we'll put down plywood sheathing and backer-board and use the salvaged planks to repair the floors upstairs. It was just so satisfying to rip that stuff out that we couldn't just stop at a couple of short planks. Here's a rough-fit of the patched hole (I didn't have the appropriate type of nails to go ahead and nail it in. I guess I could reuse some of the ones we pulled out of the boards downstairs).

The boards have the remnants of linoleum tile backing. It should come off easily when we sand down the floors.

Just a few nails and a piece of blocking underneath, and we can mark another thing off our checklist.

05 April 2009


The house's previous owner contacted us about giving us back the fireplace mantel that originally went with the house. I'm not entirely sure why it was removed from the fireplace or the house, but I'm glad they kept it and are giving it back to us. In the email, he also included some pictures of what the house looked like pre-demolition.

Here's the fireplace mantel and surround in question:

We have since taken the mottled green-and-brown tiles off. We'll eventually re-tile it with something more attractive.

A view into the room with the fireplace. That wall was removed in demolition (we have the doors), and the children were not included with the house. The bathroom chandelier hung in that room.

In the former dining room, looking toward the back door and former kitchen. The curio and the wall have been demolished. I'm not sure what that large wooden thing on the right is, but we don't have it. This room is where our enormous kitchen will go.

The old kitchen. Check out that linoleum! The sink is nowhere to be found. I think this will probably become a mudroom.

It will certainly be a while before we get to any of this stuff downstairs, but I thought it was interesting to see what condition the house was in when the previous owner bought it to renovate. Everybody always asks us if we still have the woodwork. Unfortunately not! A few of the windows still had their original casements, but there were virtually no baseboards or crown moulding or anything like that. Now that we have pictures of what they looked like, we can recreate them if we want to be historically accurate.

04 April 2009

Bathroom furniture

Tom's patience with my "look at every piece of furniture ever made before making a decision" strategy finally ran out. We rummaged around at a few of the local antique stores and found something we both agreed on, and for a pretty reasonable price. It was hiding in a dark corner in the basement, behind a rack of excellent 1980s pleather pants (I don't know, don't ask me).

We think the marble inset in the top will complement our tile nicely. Also, the curvy front will hopefully help to soften the hard visual lines of the two pedestal sinks. We like the fact that it is up on four legs, which seems like an excellent idea in a bathroom.

We haven't actually bought it yet, but we'll be going back tomorrow to nab it. It's listed at $160, but, being my mother's daughter, I'll see if I can haggle a little bit. I think Tom is a little embarrassed about that strategy, but what have we got to lose, really? The worst they can say is no, and then we pay full price anyway. I'll take pictures of it tomorrow in its new home and post them shortly thereafter.