30 July 2009

This is a long post, sorry.

I haven’t mentioned it before now, but I’ve been busy planning the downstairs layout, specifically the kitchen. I think I’ve *finally* decided on the plan. Here’s how it will be divided (at least until I change my mind again):

Top to bottom: Mudroom, den, kitchen, half-bath under the main stairs.

There were a few things driving this design. First, the windows. Since our home was built in 1905 and is load-bearing masonry construction (with limestone headers and sills), we aren’t going to try to change any of the openings. Most of the windows are only about 20” off the floor, meaning we can’t put cabinets in front of them. The windows where I’ve located the sink are a bit higher off the floor and will accommodate cabinets.

The second consideration was the two sets of stairs at the back of the house. The set closer to the back door is a servant’s stair. Several steps are missing (I think the previous owner took them out to add a closet there), but we plan on restoring them. It will lead up to a study/guest bedroom on the second floor from a mudroom on the ground floor. The other staircase leads down to the basement.

The next challenge was the bump-out in the wall in the middle room in the plan. It was a chimney for the home’s boiler, which no longer exists. The brick has to stay, though, so we thought we’d turn it into an asset rather than a weird bump in the middle of the room. By framing it a little wider and deeper, we can install a gas fireplace insert. The extra bulk will make it look more like a traditional wood-burning fireplace structure and turn the whole area into a focal point. Plus, it’ll give us somewhere to hang the TV that isn’t visible from the front windows. Am I the only one who cringes at seeing people’s TVs in the front room?

As far as the kitchen design goes, I’ve been awfully picky. I cook nearly every day, so I want it to have form AND function. While I might love having a huge, million-dollar kitchen, I simply can’t justify it. Sure, I cook, but it’s certainly not gourmet meals every day, and right now, it’s just me and the husband. And whether I like it or not, I’m usually the only one doing the cooking, so I don’t need space for 13 cooks (actually, it kind of drives me crazy when other people want to help with dinner. Control freak much? Or maybe I‘m just ashamed at my amateurish techniques - like using scissors instead of knives to cut meat). I like to buy in bulk and have items on-hand, hence the large pantry. I’ve justified closing in the north window by planning for transom windows above, and possibly a French door to let through as much light as possible.

There are a couple of different things I can do with the area by the pantry, where I have a wall oven drawn. I plan on having an oven and microwave together and a separate cook top (by the doorway into the den). I could gain more countertop by installing a single wall oven at a standard range oven’s height and putting the microwave on a shelf above. Or, I could buy a microwave/oven combined unit and install it at the standard wall oven height. I’d be able to get cabinets underneath and shelves on either side and on top, giving it a more custom look.

Although I’m pretty satisfied with the general layout, there are still a lot of details I need to work out. I’ll post later about the finishes and materials I’m thinking about since this post is already out of control. Any suggestions or recommendations for the layout?

Noah's Ark was on standby...

We finally had the water turned on yesterday, and I’m happy to report that our house didn’t flood. There is a valve right inside the water line’s point of entry that we had shut off to keep it from traveling through the open supply lines. Now the next thing to do is put caps on the bath valves and perform leak-testing this weekend. I never thought I’d be so excited about water, but it’s a huge step in the renovation process. Once we’re sure our pipes are not leaking, we can start drywall, green board, and cement board in the bathroom. Then we'll really be cooking with gas.

27 July 2009

Pictures, as promised.

We had two long workdays in a row and actually managed to get a lot accomplished for once. If you recall, this is what our bedroom looked like last weekend:

And this is what it looked like at the end of Saturday:

Not much progress. We discovered a mistake with a previous piece, so we had to take it down, cut new holes, and reattach it.

But here's the bedroom at the end of the day on Sunday (11 pm):

South wall.

Ceiling. Now that the ceiling is (mostly) done, we could turn the breaker back on and work on the walls after dark.

Niche thing on north wall. Closet and bathroom beyond. Drywall dust and assorted junk everywhere.

I also capped off all the supply lines in the house, so I can call the water company and have them turn on the water. Hopefully we'll be able to leak-test the plumbing next weekend so we can begin drywall work in the bathroom. Since Paul and Francesca are expecting baby boy #3 in November, Paul's got his own list of home improvement projects he needs to get done. He's trying to get done everything Tom and I would probably mess up royally if left to our own devices. Namely, the hookups for the washer and dryer. I'm still waiting for the next big holiday weekend for sweet appliance deals (sales + 110% price matching + free delivery + 10% off for opening a Lowe's credit card = ka-ching) before I buy them, but we'll be prepared when they finally come.

25 July 2009

Broken promises

As I mentioned in the previous post, Tom and I promised to hang a sheet of drywall per day this week after work. That didn't happen. For the first time in a long time, we've had other obligations every night this week. It's really just as well, though, since I was a bit under the weather anyhow. Whatever it was seems to have passed now, so tomorrow we will have a full day of drywall-hanging fun. We should have 2 helpers, making it go twice as fast. Or, with twice as many opinions on how to do something, twice as slow. We'll see. Pictures will follow.

20 July 2009

Snail's pace

I know it's been a long time. And no, mom, I'm not deceased. Thanks for the vote of confidence, though. Progress has been frustratingly slow, bordering on non-existent, and I have avoided blogging to hide my shame.

We're still exactly where we were at the last post in terms of drywall. We were supposed to have help last weekend with it, but a nasty storm kept the helpers busy with other obligations (mostly helping their own families clean up after the mess that the storm made). Today we didn't have help, but we're not sure why.

We did get things done, though, in small and seemingly insignificant ways. While our work has no effect on our move-in date, it is all work that will need to be done eventually.

When we bought the house, a bunch of post-demolition work had already been completed. Things like framing, plumbing, and minimal electric (an outlet in the basement and one on the second floor, just enough to plug in some tools). Had these things been done correctly, it would have been a huge time-saver for us. Unfortunately, the guy was a hack and did just about everything wrong. It's taken us so much more time to go back and undo what they "fixed."

For example, today we focused on repairing the downstairs floor by the back door. They had patched in a couple of pieces of plywood in front of the stairway to the basement, which we needed to take it out so we could lay down the OSB. These sheets were only about 3 feet square, but they had at least 30 ring-shank nails in each piece. Getting those things out is a remarkable pain in the behind. A cat's claw is the best tool for it, but it's still back-straining, tedious work. We finally took all the nails out only to discover that the base plate of the wall framing was hiding more nails. Upon closer inspection, we decided to take out the wall framing altogether because the studs were unbelievably warped and twisted. Also, some of the plumbing that ran in the wall stuck out past the line of the wall, making it impossible to drywall even if the studs were straight. And of course, instead of using nails like every other framer in the history of wooden framing, they used 4" screws. Coincidentally, these screws are the worst screws money can buy. The head strips with one turn of the drill. Sometimes if it doesn't strip, the shank will simply break off right where the threads start, making it impossible to remove. We even bought a screw extractor kit, but to no avail.

We finally just cut the studs in half and used brute force to pull the framing out. Once that was done, we went back to trying to get the plywood out. But the plumbing and electrical lines that had already been run were running through the plywood, so we couldn't simply lift it out. A couple more hours of magical circular saw and hand saw maneuvers, and we were finally able to take out the piece of plywood to install the OSB. A few cuts along the edge for length and width and a couple of notches to accommodate the aforementioned plumbing, and we were in business. We spent about 5 hours on the flooring project today, and only got 2 pieces put down. Sigh.

And we can't really progress much further with the flooring until we take up all the top floor and the subfloor. Currently, that's got a bunch of drywall sitting on it, so I guess we really do have to finish the drywall first.

We rounded out the day with some other miscellany. I hung insulation in a couple more places, and Tom took out a bunch of electrical wiring The Hacks had installed. Based on what we'd seen of their electrical skills, we thought it best to start from scratch. (They hooked up a bunch of lights in the basement, put them on the same breaker as the furnace, and then started randomly cutting wires in the circuit - presumably to lighten the load after the circuit kept tripping.) I also mowed the lawn and talked to our next-door-neighbor. He offered his sister's labor to edge our front sidewalk. It's really nice and completely unnecessary, and I have a vague feeling that they're getting tired of our weeds overpowering the sidewalk and making their house look shabby, but I'll take what I can get.

As far as drywall goes, though, Tom and I promised each other to take the time this week to hang at least one sheet per day by ourselves after work. It doesn't sound like a lot, and it's not, but 1) drywall is heavy; 2) Tom usually doesn't come home from work until 7 pm; and 3) I still have to find the energy in the evening to cook dinner, wash dishes, do laundry, etc. etc.

I wish I had pictures to update this entry, but I didn't take any this weekend, and they really wouldn't have been very exciting anyway. Maybe next time.

06 July 2009

It's starting to look like something.

I'm pleased to announce that we finally began work on drywall today! It was only 3 pieces, but it certainly feels like an accomplishment.

Hint: It's not the underside of a spaceship. Also, not a weird face with widely-spaced glowing eyes, a tiny mouth, and exposed brains.

Our weekend help will be out of town next weekend, so Tom and I will be on our own. That means a lot of long hours holding up heavy sheets of drywall, but I think we'll be able to do most of it ourselves. Tom will probably take a day or two off while The Help is on vacation to get a bit more knocked off the list.

In other news, Paul got us pretty well on the way with the plumbing in the bathroom. These are for the shower:
Corn mazes are out. CPVC mazes are in.

We used flex tubing instead of rigid CPVC connections. The idea is that if the shower valves and such ever need to be replaced, unscrewing those tubes will be easier, faster, and neater than trying to cut off rigid pipe and having to glue small extension pieces in place. In reality, replacing that stuff will never be easy, fast, or neat, but we can at least minimize damage this way.

This is the setup for the tub:

The connectors we used caused a bit of controversy with The Help. They're called GatorBite fittings, and they form a glue- and solder-free joint. You simply push the pipe into the end and call it a day. I guess he doesn't trust the connection. I can't really find any reliable information about them. All I can find are message boards where professional plumbers complain about them because they enable people to fix their plumbing themselves. I haven't seen anything that says that they form a poor connection, or that they leak, or that they're poor quality. Any negatives I've seen about GatorBite have been about a line of copper fittings that they don't sell anymore. I guess we'll do some pressure testing before we put wallboard up to see how they do.

During the week next week:

- Finish plumbing for shower (install straps, connect supply lines to main supply stack).
- Continue drywalling (the goal is to get the ceiling and one wall done before the weekend).