Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Another Goal, Checked Off

I completed another one of my 2011 Goals. While it may not seem like much, it was one that meant a lot to me.
"Figure out lighting solutions for the Living Room.. it's way too dark in there."
Our Living Room is in the Northwest corner of the house. It is dark in there all day long (unless you want to watch TV... then you get a weird glare on the TV in the afternoon). We had 2 lamps in there, which we received as wedding gifts and had in our Living Room in our apartment. They weren't cutting it. So I bought a lamp for my bookcase, thinking that might help. It helped at night, because it's hooked up to a switch, so at least we didn't have to walk through the room in the dark anymore. But other than that, no big difference (looks pretty though). We go out to church/dinner/shopping with my parents every Saturday night and while I was waiting for R to get ready, I flipped through the Bed, Bath and Beyond catalog that came in the mail that day. And there was a set of 3 lamps, one floor lamp, two table lamps. They were exactly what I was looking for! And all three for only $59.99! Add my 20% off coupon into the mix and you get three large lamps for $47! Not bad! I unpacked the lamps first thing in the morning on Sunday (R joked that it was like Christmas morning... Styrofoam/boxes everywhere and me with a big grin on my face). I put the floor lamp in the corner by the door/DVDs/fireplace and the table lamps on either side of the love seat. It was so bright in there!! Even with just the floor lamp on it makes a huge difference! It's amazing! It also makes the room look a lot more grown-up and nicer (the mess and clutter in the house is really starting to get to me, the neat freak...). I haven't taken a picture of them yet, because the room is a mess with paint removal supplies, so this picture is from the BBB website.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Paint Removal

While R was being a weekend electrician, I was removing paint. With my mom's voice in my head saying "the house needs to look different!!", I decided now was also the time to FINALLY finish the Living Room! Last fall, my sisters-in-law came to visit and the three of us painted the Living Room. We painted the trim white and picked a paint color on impulse for the walls (which I now love!). However, while they were painting the crown molding and summer beam, I was examining the door and window trim, and fireplace. They were not in good shape. They were beat up, scratched, dented and had many layers of paint glopped on them. After asking everyone's opinion and R trying to see if we could sand it, we decided to work around them for now and I'd remove the paint another day. Because the paint is crackling on the window sills in a way that makes me think it is lead paint, I decided to be cautious. I bought something called Peel Away 1 from Home Depot, which says it's a safe way to remove lead paint (or any paint). It removes up to 33 layers of paint in one application. You spread the paste onto the surface, then cover it with the supplied paper and leave it for up to 24 hours. Then come back and peel away the paper and all of the paint goes with it. It's a safe way to remove  lead paint because it contains it and you don't get any dust in the air. However..... reading the label scared me. It basically said you needed to be wearing a Haz-Mat suit while using it. The directions made it seem like your skin would burst into flames if you even looked directly at it. So I kept putting it off. I asked R if he would do the test spot, so I could see what it was like. But, another thing the directions said was that you should wear long pants, long sleeves and gloves, and tape your sleeves and pant legs around your wrists/ankles. It was way too hot here in the summer to do that. And in the winter it was too cold so we couldn't have the windows open to get rid of the smell. So I decided to wait until it was cooler. Enter this weekend.

The label was full of crap. Not that you should ignore safety precautions, but I accidentally got some of the paste on my finger and I was fine. Everything I read online said that it would instantly burn you, but I didn't feel anything. I washed it off and was fine. I started with the fireplace mantle. It took me about 45 minutes to get the paste on there and then apply the paper. It's definitely not a quick job! I had hoped to get the whole fireplace done in that time.
Sunday morning I applied the paste to the surround right below the mantle. R kept calling me needing my help with pulling wire through walls, turning off breakers, etc. I'd be gone for 5 minutes and come back and all of the paste had slid down to the bottom. So I'd curse him and try it again. A couple hours later, I was done with that section. I was too tired to move on to the sides, so I took a break and went outside to put together some nesting boxes for the hens. When I came back, all of the paste and paper had slid down to the bottom. I said forget it (the top 2 or 3 inches were left uncovered now).
I got to work removing the paper on the mantle. It was amazing! It left a mess.... but underneath the nasty black goop was pretty wood (I was this close to changing my mind and staining it. Then I remember that 1) I don't like that look and 2) it doesn't fit with our house).
This is what's left after you peel away the paper. According to the company, it's the chemicals liquefying the paint.
After scraping off some of the goop, you're suppose to use a scrubber (I used a Scotch-Brite pad) to scrape away the gray... I don't know what and what ever paint is left on the surface. Then using a squirt bottle and a paper towel, I washed away the gray stuff. It is extremely messy!! But the finished result is awesome!
I had to go back and re-do that section in front (I tried removing the paper earlier than 24 hours... I think that was around 18 hours or so... it was obviously too soon. It removed not even half of the paint, whereas the full 24 hours on the other side removed basically all of the paint).

My sisters-in-law are coming to visit in a week and a half and I'm trying to have all the paint removed by then so we can finish up this room. At the rate I'm going, I'm not sure if I'm going to make it. I'm hoping the door and window trim will be easier and quicker.

We're Back in the 21st Century!

Since the end of July, we've had no power in the back half of our house. It's felt like a lot longer than that. For about a month we didn't use our downstairs bathroom, until R decided to run an extension cord to a lamp that's sitting on a pile of boxes. We had to use flashlights to get up the backstairs at night. There's a long exterior-use extension cord running from the Guest Bedroom through my Office and into the Twilight Room to power either R's computer or the air conditioner. Vacuuming was not easy. You had to duck walking down the stairs (well, duck even more than you had to before) so you wouldn't hit your head on the wires coming out of the ceiling (don't worry.. it's not like they were live or anything). Summer '11 was a crazy one for us and if we were home for an entire weekend, R's time was taken up by things that were a little bit more pressing, such as cutting the grass (pretty much an all day job) or building the coop or preparing and then cleaning up after the hurricane.

But... we have a goal now. R's birthday is smack dab in the middle of October and we always have a family party (his family lives in a different state and we try to do as many things as we can down here so both families can be together because as uncharacteristic as this is, they actually like each other). My mom brought up a good point when I mentioned the party to her. "You can't have everyone (mostly extended family, aunts, uncles, cousins) over here with it looking exactly the same way it did in January for your birthday party!" *sigh* Once again, mom's right. While it's not like we've sat around doing nothing for the past 8 months, the things we've done wouldn't really be noticeable to "normal" people. "Oh, you added another coat of paint in here? Looks the same to me!" "You updated this outlet? Woww....." "Is that a new chimney cap I see? Impressive!" "A garden? A chicken coop? Is that all you've done this year?" (Sense the sarcasm?) The main thing people will notice is that the Kitchen basically looks exactly the same. Yeah, I've unpacked more boxes, organized the cabinets, painted the fireplace, did patching/etc on the walls. But the overall picture is exactly the same. I can't have that!! So the point of this story is... by the end of October, that Kitchen needs to be done. Done as in floor: installed. Walls: painted. Trim: installed and painted. Fireplace: painted and decorated. New light fixtures: installed. With that huge room done it'll make a huge difference! Plus it'll be a nice room to sit in and eat/talk with our relatives, as opposed to a half finished, dirty room.
The old light switch at the bottom of the stairs. It was only 34 cents! Look at that scary wiring!
The first step was to get all of the drywall up, taped and sanded. However, a couple months ago R took down some of the drywall under the window (while I was crying "now we're going backwards! :'( ). He had good reason. When I was in the Kitchen cooking, every once in awhile I'd hear crackling sounds. We traced the sounds back to the outlets under the windows. This scared the pyrophobiac (is this a word?) in me. R immediately turned off that breaker and a month later took down the drywall and tried to fix it. Long story short, he wasn't able to easily fix it. And then the Crazy Summer happened and it got put off until this weekend. I asked him to put up the drywall around the posts near the windows and he said that he would do that when he put the drywall back under the windows. So he fixed the outlets first. He had thoroughly researched it and knew exactly what to do this time. Piece of cake. Finished in about 2 hours. Then he was on an electrical roll. He moved on to the hall light (the point of this post. Finally). This wasn't as easy...
I'll admit, I wasn't there while he was fixing it, so I'm not 100% sure of exactly what he did or in what order. (Pyrophobia, remember?) All I know is that apparently what is in our walls is a mess. He cleaned it up where he could, adding new wire where he could. I flipped breakers when he told me to. He had blown-in insulation fall all over him when the plaster ceiling broke a little while he was drilling through it. He installed two (well, three really because he replaced the one in our bedroom while he was up there) new light switches and two new temporary light fixtures. This hall/staircase isn't at the top of our to-do list, it's maybe 4th after the Kitchen. But it will be re-done in the near future. And when that time comes, new nicer light fixtures will be installed. For now, it's just nice to finally have light fixtures in the steep, scary staircase we the most. And it's a little easier to sleep at night knowing that the wiring is a little safer. Someday... in the far future... we'll replace all of the wiring. But that's a huge job that we couldn't do ourselves, which means it'll have to wait :)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Floor: On It's Way!

Looking back at my posts so far this month, it feels really good to have a post where I actually can say I did something! We made progress!!

We ordered our Kitchen floor this morning!!!! YAY!! It should be here in about a week. We'll be busy with work-work next weekend, so we'll be losing a house-working weekend. So R will be tackling the plywood removal the following weekend (while I finish up the Living Room!!). Hopefully he'll get most of it done that weekend because the following weekend I'll be antsy to start putting some flooring down! I'm getting excited just  typing this!! And the thing I'm most excited for? A floor means that I finally get to install my dishwasher!!! (Ah, the joys of homeownership/married life...)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sidewalk Progress

The sidewalk project is becoming the Office project of 2010. It just never seems to end!

My dad came over yesterday after work to help me dig out some more of the sidewalk. We got to the garage and the turned the corner between the lean-to and garage. That's where we literally hit a snag. A HUGE rock, which might be partly acting as a primitive footing for the lean-to, was in our way. The distance between the two buildings is only 3' so I already had to make my sidewalk narrower in this area. Now I have a huge rock sticking out about 6" into that. The lean-to is going to be our main project next summer (if it makes it through the winter!) and I was already planning on pushing it away from the garage another 2 feet or so. Plus we'll be pouring a concrete foundation, so the rocks will be gone. So I decided to just work around the large rock for now, save the bricks that will go there and install them next summer after the lean-to is re-built. I found a LOT of broken china by that rock though.. so I can't wait to see what we find next summer when we excavate for the frost walls!
After my dad left, I decided to work on the sidewalk until R came home from work. That way I'd have more time today to devote to the Kitchen. I got pretty far in that hour and a half! Between that and a couple hours this morning I made it around the corner!! I'm running really low on bricks though. I ended up making the sidewalk about 8" wider than I had originally planned, so we'll have to make another trip to Lowe's for more bricks soon. I'll get pretty close to the end though. I also put sand between the joints almost to where I ended, so we could walk on the sidewalk for most of the way to the garage (it's at a point now where it would be almost impossible to not step on it). I've gotten so many compliments on it so far!! The chimney guys... three neighbors! Everyone thinks it looks great and is shocked when they hear I did it myself!

Friday, September 16, 2011

I Changed My Mind... Again!

First I was indecisive with the sidewalk, now it has moved on to the Kitchen floor. In July we finally made a decision on the floor. As I've said before, we were having a hard time for two main reasons. All of the other rooms in the house have original, 18-24" wide wood floors. The Kitchen touches two rooms so we needed a new floor that didn't look too new, wasn't too narrow, and wasn't too expensive. Also adding to this was the fact that the floor was raised up so much from the adjacent rooms, so "real" hardwood (which we'd be able to get really wide) wouldn't work. It was too thick.

The main problem here is the current floor situation. We have the existing sub-floor (which unfortunately isn't in good shape, so we can't re-use it) and then 3/4" plywood (with a couple layers of laminate on top). We went back and forth trying to figure out what to do. I contacted a contractor I work with to see how much it would cost to have his guys remove our plywood floor, then remove the original floor, then put the plywood back where the original floor was. Then when we put down the new floor, it would be level with where the old plywood used to be. In the end, it ended up being too expensive. And R and my dad felt like it was a job that was way over our heads, so doing it ourselves was out.

Last weekend we had a very long conversation about this. R agreed to tear up the existing plywood and replace it (this would get rid of all the uneven laminate, plus the asbestos adhesive underneath it). This got my brain working.. What we're planning on doing now is removing the old plywood and then putting down 1/4" plywood in it's place. That plus the 3/8" new flooring and the pad will make the top of the new floor level with the old plywood. Everyone wins!

So last Sunday we set out to finally order the floor! I wasn't positive on the lead time (the sample board said it was "Special Order") or price. Let me tell you... don't ever go to a Home Depot on a Sunday night. You won't find anyone to help you! No one could answer my questions, and I kept getting bounced around between departments. Finally, someone in Appliances told me the lead time is about 2 weeks, but wasn't sure on the price. R was poking around the flooring department and found it on their sample boards (we were in a different HD than the one I got my sample board). And the price/sq.ft. was almost twice as much as we remember it being when we got the sample 2 months ago. Ick. My dad is paying for a majority of the floor, as a housewarming gift, and thought that this was too much. He asked if I could shop around and try to find it somewhere else for a better price. I emailed 5 places that carried that brand and only heard back from one. Dalene Flooring in Southington. Turns out it's a HD exclusive line (ugh), but the rep said that if I brought in the sample we could find something similar.

So yesterday afternoon I went to Dalene to check out their options. I left with 4 sample boards. As soon as I brought them in the house, I narrowed it down. I didn't even look at 3 of them. As soon as I brought one in (ironically, the last one I looked at in the store... I saw it as we were leaving), I knew this was it. I carried it around the Kitchen... putting it in the corner by the cabinets...
then by the fireplace...
and lastly, by the Dining Room...
I love it! It looked really good next to everything, but it doesn't look like we're trying to match. And it doesn't have a super shiny, nice finish like most wood floors (crazy people and their wanting nice, pretty floors!) so it doesn't seem out of place. It also helps that the wood in the Dining Room is narrower than the rest of the house..

Rustic River Hardwood Flooring
5" wide, 3/8" thick hickory

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Me and My Indecisive Brain..

Is it that I'm indecisive, or am I a perfectionist? Either way, I ripped up everything I did last Monday. The whole sidewalk.

Let's start this at the beginning. This morning I went outside to work on the sidewalk. I gathered my bricks and tools and got to work. As I was working, I realized that if I pushed the bricks up closer to each other, the joints were smaller and looked better. Long story short, when the bricks were more level, the joints were smaller. So I ran inside and got the level. Now that I was able to make them 100% level, I realized that my bricks from Labor Day were slightly off. So after doing about 4' of new brick, I went back and started working backwards, leveling the sidewalk. This actually worked out well because I had run out of weed paper and was too lazy to go to Lowe's and I didn't want to put down any more brick without weed paper underneath.

Anyways.... by the time I got back to the beginning, I was off by more than a brick height. The level bricks were about 3" higher than the original ones. I was disgusted with myself! Staring down at it, my dad and I realized what I had done. Last weekend, my main concern was keeping the first row of bricks level with the bottom stone step. From there, I was trying to keep the last row of bricks level with the grass. And the result was a sloping sidewalk. So I sat there and thought about it... A level sidewalk won. I could always build up the grass along the sidewalk and slope it down to the existing grass level. The yard slopes down in that direction anyways, so it wouldn't look weird.
This picture shows just how un-level I was!
Once I was done, I realized that it being level made it look a million times better! It looked more professional. In fact, I commented to R that it looked too nice for our house :) Especially next to the lean-to, which would probably collapse if you breathed near it. (Can you say Project: Summer 2012?)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Hangs Head in Shame...

This post embarrasses me even before I write it.. I'm so ashamed... I should have my house taken away from me.. bad bad renovator...

Remember this post? It's from Memorial Day. We went to Lowe's and bought bricks for our back sidewalk because they were on sale. Also because I was sick of walking in wet grass every time it rained. I don't like wet shoes.

Remember this post? Also from Memorial Day weekend? I dug up the asphalt in our backyard in preparation for the new sidewalk.

Well.. here we are. Labor Day weekend. An entire season (and 3 months) have gone by with not one bit of work happening. So so incredibly pathetic! I complain and complain about the bad asphalt sidewalk, then dig it up and would apparently rather walk through mud and grass for three months. So ashamed...

Wanna see what 3 months do to a dug up sidewalk?
I think my blogging rights should  be revoked... You can't even tell where I labored in the heat for 2 full days! It was all a waste! The bricks that I laid on top of the grass (only a month ago) to test out that pattern (I had two other patterns there that also each lasted a month) are covered in grass.
There's a third rock step under there that we had honestly forgotten we even had. That's how long it has been unseen! Here's my excuse (there's always an excuse in situations like this, right??). It was too hot (in the summer. Whaaaat?!? That's craziness!) The area where the sidewalk is in direct sun all day until about 3 or 3:30 in the afternoon. On super hot, humid days, that's when we're close to calling it quits. I'm not going to start a new project then when I've spent all day doing something else! Ok, and there were a bunch of weekend vacations/trips in there too.
One of the other brick pattern options..
A couple weeks ago I made my dad promise me that on Labor Day he was all mine. We were tackling that sidewalk... rain or shine... humidity or nice day. Sunday night we're watching the news and they're forecasting rain all day on Labor Day. No. It's not going to stop me! I told my dad we were still going to do something! I didn't care what, or how much, just as long as we made some sort of progress!
My dad came over early in the morning and we immediately got to work! I cleaned up weeds around the rocks while he dug and pulled all of the grass out of the dirt ditch I had made back in May (which, by the way, turned into a nice muddy river during rain storms..). Then I started leveling the dirt as best I could. My non-existent ADD came to visit for awhile while I was digging. I found a bunch of broken china, some really old nails and a toy monkey (or Baloo from Jungle Book... we can't decide what it is). Plus some garbage. And a million rocks.
While I was waiting for my dad to finish so we could start putting down sand, I stared at the bottom rock step that I had just rediscovered. To the right of the second step was a smaller stone. It's off in the grass and kind of pointless. I realized that if we moved it and put it to the right of the bottom step it would almost even out the steps (the third step is almost half the width of the other two). Turns out it fit perfectly. So perfectly in fact that I'm convinced that it once belonged there. We filled around it with some of the extra red rock from between the other two steps, but we need to buy some more to complete it.

We first put down about a half inch of sand. On top of that went some organic weed paper. Then about another inch or so of sand, to make it level. I decided that I wanted the bricks to be level with the bottom rock step. This means we'll have to raise the grass on the other side of the sidewalk about an inch once we're done.
I didn't get to finish, but I got about 25% of the sidewalk done. Unfortunately, it's going to rain all week so I won't be able to get any work done, but now that it's started, it'll be easy to do a couple rows of brick on a weeknight for an hour or two.

The Old Chimney Cap

Our handy, dandy chimney guy came this morning. On Labor Day. At 8:30 in the morning. Now that's service! (Well, except that a certain husband "forgot" to tell me he was coming and I was in my pajamas reading in the living room and got surprised when a big truck drove in our driveway.)
Jim and his worker went up on the roof to take down our old cap, assess the damage (if we'd need any new brick work) and to take measurements for the new cap. He said that while he was up there he was able to see all the way down into our kitchen. That's cool enough to ALMOST get me and R (the big height scaredy cats that we are) up on the roof! How cool would that be?!?!

We thought that they'd throw the old cap down, but they actually put together this little pulley system and lowered it down in one piece (well, relatively). The top of the cap was blue stone, just like I had guessed. We kept it, even though it's covered in tar and other gunk. Who knows.. maybe we could clean it up and re-use it for the front steps.. The cap showed areas of repair over the years. Someone had gone up there and tried to repair cracks and holes with none other than drywall tape. ............. There's just no words for that.

I just cannot get over how large the cap is... It's insane! I mean, it's obvious how wide our chimney is seeing that it takes up a 1/4 of the interior of our house, but I think I just assumed it got a lot smaller as it went up. It does, but not by much.

We won't have our new cap for a week or so, so hopefully it doesn't rain too much this week, now that we basically have a 5'x5' opening in the top of our house. But once the new one is up there... no more buckets!

Here's the old pieces of blue stone. You can see in this picture how the metal supports have just wasted away. One of the vertical supports was very close to collapsing, so we actually had very good timing.