1:29 p.m. — Monday, April 11, 2005
The past few weeks have been incredibly productive. Many, many "big ticket items" seemed to get done all at once, and since we were working nonstop, I never had time to write about it all...until now!
So to begin, here's a summary of all we've accomplished (with much help) since Good Friday:
1. We now have RUNNING WATER.
Phew! Got all that? We're super excited about all the progress. "The House" is really starting to feel like home again, something I think we've both greatly missed.
So now, on to the details (sit back, relax, get a glass of pulp-free OJ...it's gonna be a long one.)
1. We now have RUNNING WATER. For the first time since October.
My dad temporarily installed our laundry sink in the half bath downstairs. This is where a taller pedestal sink will eventually go, so we had to elevate it with a sampling of bricks and blocks from around the yard. Sophisticated, oui? None of the fittings were glued together and we had a little drip until Ryan tightened things down, but we've been drip-free ever since.
2. Almost all of the house is PRIMED. All we have left is the foyer ceiling (very high) and our master bedroom walls and ceiling (also very high). We've had loads of help priming, especially from Ryan's family, and it's wonderful walking around the house and being surrounded by clean, white walls.
For a while, the whole house felt like a Winter Wonderland, covered in white powder from three coats of spackling and sanding. But now we can confidently lean up against almost any wall in the house and know that our clothes will come away dust-free.
Here's Heidi "dusting" off the back bedroom closet walls before priming. I say "dusting" because I'm not sure this old-sock-on-mop method was very effective in doing more than just spreading the dust around. But it was kind of fun anyway ;) After a while, we didn't even pretend to dust the walls off and just primed them as they were. I haven't seen any difference in wall texture or quality.
Megan and Annette came up to help prime some rooms and paint ceilings. We had a great time chatting as we worked and the time passed quickly. They got a lot done while they were over and caught a glimpse of some exciting paint going on the walls before they had to leave, which leads me to...
3. Some of the house is PAINTED.
Yes, we are certainly fans of bold colors. Behr Rodeo Red is in our back bedroom, the future office. Our condo office was red and we loved it, so we tried to duplicate the color here. In retrospect, we think the color might have actually been Behr Farmhouse Red, but this is close enough. Lori did an expert job cutting out the ceiling (no tape!), a gene she must have inherited from her mom. I inherited my mom's expert sale shopping gene.
After two coats, the room looked warm and inviting...and clean.
Our front bedroom (the future guest room) is a bright, sunny yellow: Behr Straw Hat. The front of the house doesn't get a lot of sun, so painting this room such a happy color really helped. In contrast, the red room with its big windows gets the most sun during the day, so it can easily handle its darker color.
We were afraid that priming and painting behind the toilet was going to be especially difficult without removing the whole tank, but Ryan's mom found a very small roller that made the job quite enjoyable. (Yes, we did things a little out of order in the bathroom.)
First, we wrapped the toilet tank up like a Christmas present, then got to work. The guest bath paint color is Behr Gobi Desert. These are the only three rooms painted so far.
Before we leave this subject, I'd like to offer a few words of advice to future whole-house-spacklers (besides skipping any wall-dusting adventures): Cover your floors! Especially wood floors you intend on keeping. Even after repeated vacuuming and scrubbing, ours are still covered in streaks of white and chunks of spackle we have yet to bust up. This picture looks all too familiar...
And invest in a wet/dry vacuum with special bags for plaster dust. We quickly realized that our RIDGID wet/dry vac with a regular filter wasn't made to handle this type or quantity of dust, and cleaning out the filter every ten minutes when each room has to be vacuumed at least twice does not lead to a very productive day.
I've made an online photo album available if you'd like to see more of the priming progress (Ryan's mom took a few of these photos):
Well, I think that's about enough for one day. I'm glad I was able
to post the list so everyone can see what's new without having to wait
for me to go into detail. More to come!
5:09 p.m. — Tuesday, April 12,
When I got to the house last night and started the laundry, I realized I forgot to add something to the list:
16. We now have a functioning WASHER and DRYER.
No longer having to bring laundry to Mom and Dad's every Saturday night like we're still in college is definitely a good thing.
I'll return to the list another day, but today, I wanted to mention what we're actually focused on right now. I'm usually so far behind in my posts that I find myself talking about things we did weeks and weeks ago while new things are going on I can't talk about yet until I catch up! So it's an endless cycle and today I'm breaking my own rules by going out of order.
How daring of me ;)
So we're currently investigating kitchens cabinets, namely those found at Home Depot. Yes, we are on a budget.
While we love the look and price of the Mill's Pride Alexis cabinets (the Hickory is a great color and has a beautiful grain), we know better than to buy cabinets whose drawers don't have dovetail joints. These cabinets have to last a long time...
We love the square, simple look of these Shaker-style cabinets — and they even have bench seat cabinets! We discovered the same cabinet style in American Woodmark Townsend cabinets, but unfortunately, they are almost two and a half times the price per linear foot.
Because they only come in Maple and Cherry. And have I mentioned how much I love Cherry?
It might have to do with how my mother-in-law has cherry cabinets and the most wonderful food and the most wonderful smells come from her kitchen and...oooh I start salivating just looking at the picture. Ryan and I like the glass featured on these cabinets — they let in enough light so you can see shadows and colors inside, but yet not quite enough to make out actual shapes (and mess) very clearly.
And the bin pulls I so love would look wonderful on these cabinets.
The other we really like is American Woodmark Gettysburg cabinets. Also in Cherry. Though I like the color of the oak, I think the grain is too busy for cabinets of this style. The Maple and the Hickory are too light, and Ryan doesn't like White cabinets because they're not solid wood.
Mill's Pride makes a comparably-styled cabinet called the Fairfield that is actually in-stock at Home Depot (though I can't find it on their Website), but it only comes in a light wood and — as I've mentioned — we're going for something a little darker.
So now you're all caught up to where we are in our Kitchen Cabinet Conundrum. I welcome all budget-conscious comments and suggestions, and in the meantime, we'll keep looking around...
2:45 p.m. — Wednesday, April 13,
A few weeks ago, the town came and hauled away our old hot water heater.
I never knew what giant claws were required to haul away homeowner white goods! I wonder if this is what they used to take away our old stove, washer, and dryer?
At one point, the hot water heater slipped from the crane's clutches in mid-air and loudly thudded back to the ground. Yes, Mrs. Scott, thudded is indeed a verb. See? I just used it.
Seems the crane was having trouble getting the hot water heater into the bed of the truck while keeping its arm beneath the utility cables running across the road (only partially visible here through the pine trees).
On his second try, Truck Driver Man decided, "Oh well, what the hey, lets just drag the crane beneath the wires and make this work instead of pulling the truck forward 10 whole feet to clear the wires." All this while Phone Re-Connection Man was literally 20 feet from the crane, atop our closest utility pole, watching as the crane rubbed not-so-gently along the new cables he had just connected.
Fortunately, no wires were snagged or snapped in the process, and it turned out to be a very productive day as far as utilities were concerned. This was the day our NEW hot water finally saw some action.
Ryan had been trying to vent the tankless hot water heater for quite some time. The double-walled b-vent he picked up at Lowes just wasn't doing the trick, and we weren't sure the township was going to be so happy with the new hole we put through the basement sill (which required another notched beam...notched beams aren't our friends).
So then we realized, "Hmm, maybe we should take a better look at the requirements in the hot water heater manual." Turns out it had to be vented with stainless steel, which could not be easily obtained at the big box home improvement stores we frequent.
What, there are other places to buy things for our house? Good to know.
After several calls to local plumbing supply stores, we were pretty lost. Seems the tankless hot water heaters are so new that plumbing supply stores either a.) don't carry parts for them, or b.) don't know enough about them to know whether or not they carry parts for them.
One thing's for sure: They don't like little-girl-sounding me telling them over the phone, "Yes, I'm sure it needs to be vented" and "Yes, I'm sure the parts didn't come in the box with the heater" and "Yes, I'm sure the parts have to be stainless." Good thing I had the manual to confirm my story. ;)
We finally discovered a store not too far away from our house that thought it carried the stainless steel parts we needed. When I walked in, the clerk was very friendly to little-girl-looking me, but still pretty confused. Fortunately, the customer sitting at the counter (a licensed plumber) told the clerk exactly what parts I needed and even took some time to look through the manual I brought with me to be sure. He was very nice and gave me his card before he left. Roland's been wonderful, but it's definitely nice having contact with a local plumber who we can call when we don't want to bug Roland to come all the way up to our house.
On a side note: If you're planning on buying a tankless like we did, be prepared for higher costs all around and many confused salespeople. Do a lot of research on vent placement restrictions and know your stuff, because you will have to educate the salespeople about what you need. We got a little deal on our unit because we had connections, but even finding the right vent parts set us back a few weeks and over $100. B-vent — which is used on standard hot water heaters — is much, much cheaper and more readily available.
So after patching our original hole through the basement wall sill and making a new one through the concrete block (under Opa's supervision and Dad's encouragement, of course), here's how the new tankless is now vented:
We also had to swap the furnace exhaust and intake pvc pipes (just off to the left in the photo above) because the tankless vent was not more than 12 inches from the furnace intake.
Here's Ryan attaching the end of the tankless' vent after applying super-high temperature caulk behind it (I forget what degree). The furnace exhaust/intake pipes are above it to the right. This picture was taken after Ryan put a new piece of siding over his first cut through the wall for the b-vent. I found the original wood cutout in the garbage that we just popped back into the hole and glued. Gotta love hole saws and liquid nails.
As for our review of how the tankless works? All I can say is...Endless hot water is gooooood.
We've taken a few long showers at the house so far and have yet to notice any change in water temperature or pressure. This comes in handy when washing out a seemingly endless supply of priming/painting materials in the laundry sink.
The only negative so far is that it seems to take a long time for the
water to initially turn hot, if it hasn't been used in a while. It feels
like you're standing there with your fingers under the water for a long
time before you feel it turning warm, and then in a flash, it's very
very hot, and you have to add in cold water. Ryan is going to see if
there's something we should be adjusting on the hot water heater itself,
and I'll report back. But overall, we're very happy.
4:52 p.m. — Thursday, April 14,
The weather was so beautiful this past weekend that we were itching to work outside and enjoy it. Ryan got so much done in the front yard that we started saying we had "re-claimed" the front yard as our own. No more tire ruts, no more huge, frozen piles of dirt and rocks, no more railroad ties or sheetrock scraps. By Sunday night, he had the whole front yard leveled off, de-rocked, and seeded.
We still have to remove the old limestone treads from our front yard, but they're really heavy, so we'll tackle that next workday when we have more hands. And we're hoping to rent some kind of metal detector to find the thousands of nails hiding in the lawn, though I still think I'll be nervous to go barefoot for years to come.
After watching how hard he worked, I can understand why smarter people designate certain areas for construction traffic ahead of time and block off other areas they don't want messed up.
I was motivated to get flowers planted in the warm weather. Pansies should survive the chilly nights sure to follow, but I don't really know much about primrose.
They were just so bright and beautiful sitting there in the garden center, that I had no choice but to happily buy them and bring them home. And here's the logic: If they are being SOLD this time of year, they must be able to SURVIVE this time of year.
I can talk myself into anything ;) I'll have to look into primrose some more...
Thanks to Ryan's mom for picking up these pansies for me (I still owe you $12 — I haven't forgotten!) and giving me these nice white planters last summer. I was hoping to hang one on our back deck railing, but I don't have the right brackets yet.
All of the tulips I planted the fall we moved in (2003) are coming back up, but only two of the daffodils came back. Seems they were not as resilient as the tulips to living under construction debris for months. At least they're both blooming already =)
I'm so happy Ryan got me this hammock last year for my birthday! Silke, Heidi, and I spent a long time taking hammock breaks between priming and painting last week. It was really nice having somewhere to relax since there aren't many clean places to take a break inside yet.
The state of the backyard is not quite so advanced. Ryan spread some dirt around Saturday, but he still has a lot of work ahead of him. It's going to take a while to grade the yard properly, remove the sundry ruts and mounds, and dig out alllll the rocks, both large and small.
2:02 p.m. — Tuesday, April 19,
Boy that's a lot of exclamation points, but we just got the news about a half hour ago that we're finally allowed to LIVE in our OWN HOUSE after 6+ months! At first, it was kind of fun camping out on the floor on an air mattress that had to be blown up every night at Lori & Jay's. (Thanks so much, by the way!) But it's such a tease spending all your free time working on a house that you're required to leave when it's time to go to sleep.
So this past month has been "Do everything we possibly can to get that temporary Certificate of Occupancy (C.O.)" month, which involved a lot of quick fixes that we normally try to avoid.
Your view gets a little skewed when you're homesick for your own house, and you find yourself doing strange things like, oh, installing the downstairs pedestal sink in the upstairs guest bathroom because a temporary C.O. requires a FINISHED bathroom not just a WORKING bathroom, so you can't just install your laundry sink up there, no no no, and the sink top you special ordered for your irregular sink space, that won't arrive for a MONTH.
Another temporary C.O. requirement we rushed to fulfill was completing our WORKING kitchen, which by definition includes a sink, a refrigerator (stinky or not), and a stove. Check, check, check. We also needed to complete all of the electrical in the house, so a few weeks ago, Ryan happily announced that ALL 40 circuits were turned on. He had put temporary plates over the areas for currently non-existent ceiling fans, vanity lights, the foyer pendant light, under-cabinet kitchen lights, and pendant kitchen lights. Everywhere else, he installed $5 globe lights from Home Depot and ta-DA! Electrical is finished.
Other issues were safety-related. All of our smoke detectors had to be functional and connected, which was a given since smoke detectors in new construction have to be hard wired together, not just battery operated independently of one another, so this requirement was completed along with the electrical. When one goes off, they all go off, and boy are they loud!
We also had to have interior railings installed, which was completed yesterday while we were at work. (It's nice to come home and find something done by someone else every once in a while...railings were included in Tom's original bid for demo/framing/windows/roofing/siding.)
SOOO after all that temporary C.O. stuff was completed, Ryan went to the town today during lunch to fill out the appropriate forms and pay the $30 application fee. He got to talking with the ladies behind the desk — the same ladies who have told me THREE TIMES that we need a temporary C.O. to move back in — and they told him we DON'T need one and we can move back in whenever we want!
I absolutely could not believe it when Ryan told me. This was definitely not the news I was expecting to hear when I picked up the phone, and certainly not anything I dreamed would happen today! I've learned that too much hoping = too much disappointment...you get to a certain point in Home Construction Land where you stop setting deadlines, stop predicting when things will happen, because eventually you realize it's no use and you can only be let down so many times. Things will get done when they got done and no sooner, regardless of deadlines, and projects usually take two to three times as long as you had planned. That's just the way it is, no matter how prepared you are.
The ladies behind the desk told Ryan that since our project was part new construction, part renovation, we could move back in whenever we wanted (considering no one forced us to move out in the first place), so long as we weren't living in the NEW space until obtaining our final C.O. (which happens once absolutely everything is finished). Ryan was very forthright, not wanting to do anything shady, and told them that the renovated parts of the house were basically new construction, as well, save a few 2x4s and some badly-mangled wood flooring. But they didn't care, so long as all the walls were closed in.
Too bad they couldn't have told me this exact same thing when I called to ask about it TWO MONTHS AGO.
So tonight, after another thorough vacuuming, everything from Lori & Jay's is coming back home for good — and so are we! Things that have been stored in the basement for eight months (yes, through all the flooding — see why it bothered us so much?) can finally see the light of day once more. Furniture and mattresses can come back from Mom & Dad's garage, which could not serve its proper garage function of shielding Mom's car from all the winter snow. (Sorry, Mom!)
I was careful not to mention online that we had moved out and put all of our stuff (minus furniture) into the basement, because I felt a little vulnerable having all that information available for the world to see for all these months. "Hey, there's this house in some vague place in America that isn't always locked and doesn't always HAVE locks and has a basement full of goodies and lots of power tools...and oh by the way no one lives there so COME ON IN."
But I'm sure most of you who don't know us in real life have probably figured out our situation long before now...thanks for playing along ;)
So our new dining room (the former living room) will temporarily be our new bedroom. We'll have to figure out how to get the space closed off for privacy and dust-deterrence purposes, but that's the last thing on my mind right now in the excitement to just GET THERE.
In closing, for fun I thought I'd share an e-mail conversation Ryan and I had earlier today:
Leah: I HOPE YOU HAVE TIME TO GET TO THE TOWNSHIP DURING LUNCH AND FILL EVERYTHING OUT!!!!
Ryan: =] worrywart...
Leah: i wouldn't say worrywart so much as wanttomovebackinwart.
Ryan (a few hours later): Hey, guess what?!
We're moving back in TONIGHT!! Howdoyoulikethat??? Ahead of schedule...thankyouverymuch.
Moving in last night was very exciting. Thanks muchly to Ryan's folks and Heidi for making the long journey to our house just to help us get situated — and take us to dinner ;)
Waking up in our own house for the first time this morning was such a wonderful feeling! Warm sunlight streamed in through our big new windows onto the (air)bed, and we realized we had never seen the sun coming into the house at that time of day. I'm sure we'll be noticing every little new thing...like how we have to wear flips flops to get to the bathroom to avoid tracking white powder onto the mat from our bare feet.
Here are a few things we need to do to make the house more livable in its current condition:
Ok, I guess I should stop that list now before I really post too much
It was on clearance for sale "As Is" because of a few dents in the side panels...nothing that mattered to us because A.) have you seen our current fridge? do dents smell? and B.) the sides of the fridge will be mostly concealed anyway. The saleslady we had been talking to about the cabinets came over and said, "You still here?" then pushed between us to inspect the fridge herself.
As she opened doors and slid out drawers and spit-cleaned spots on shelves, she asked us, "Would you be interested in taking this fridge home tonight?" We looked at each other. I would have been interested in taking LOTS of things home that night. Was she making a deal?
I muttered, "I guess so," and she walked away. Just up and left. Ryan and I saw her on the phone in the appliance department, and we quickly learned she was finding out whether or not the fridge was already sold. I wandered over to Tile and Flooring as "Any available Appliance Associate" was paged repeatedly.
Eventually, Ryan came and found me. They made us an offer we couldn't refuse. In the end, we paid half list price for the exact fridge we had been wanting. And Sunday, we happily returned to pick up our new, never-been-moldy appliance.
Ryan backed the trailer up to the front porch (that was some very fancy maneuvering between the pine tree and the maple — he can back that trailer up like nobody's business) and we unloaded it right there onto the stoop.
After some more fancy maneuvering involving some scrap wood and principles of leverage I will never understand, Ryan got the fridge into the house all by himself. We are keeping it wrapped up and unused until we have a new kitchen to put it into. That's the plan for now, at least. If I get too tired of holding my breath every time I open the fridge, I may christen the new one a littler sooner than expected.
P.S. Much thanks to Opa, Oma, and Uncle David for providing us with a usable trailer once more! In February, Opa and Oma helped dump the load of asbestos shingles (first mentioned here) that had been sitting in the trailer in our driveway all winter. We disposed of it as regular trash at a Waste Management landfill, and if you've never been to one of those places...um, don't go. Also, thanks to Opa and Uncle David for helping dump the load of sheetrock scraps and clearing the house/yard of all trash we couldn't get rid of without dumpsters.
4:43 p.m. — Thursday, April 21, 2005
A few weeks ago, I started some tomatoes, peas, and zinnias from seeds.
They are well on their way to being real plants! I have to take the lid off soon, as the little tomato seedlings are squishing up against the top already. I've never grown zinnias or snap peas before, but they seem to be moving right along.
Too bad I still have no idea where my garden will be...
5:28 p.m. — Friday, April 22, 2005
Here is the current state of the guest bath:
For now , the pedestal sink that will someday make its home in the downstairs half bath is living in the upstairs guest bath.
Having to temporarily put this sink here made us really glad we tiled all the way to the wall and painted all the way down to the floor, even though someday a vanity will cover this whole area.
The bathroom faucets on all our sinks, tubs, and showers match throughout the house. They are all widespread fixtures from the American Standard Hampton series, in chrome with white porcelain cross handles. We really like the classic feel of the white porcelain cross handles and the simple, curvy spouts on the faucets.
Actually, all plumbing fixtures throughout the house are American Standard (including the kitchen faucet), except for the pedestal sink. We like sticking with brands we know we can trust, and it also helps everything to blend from one room to the next.
Here is the faucet on the pedestal sink:
Here are the controls for the shower/bath combo in the guest bath:
Here is the tub filler on the hot-tub in the Master Bath:
It's funny how you can see the reflection of me taking pictures in both faucets =)
And here's a photo of our vanity lighting:
It's black, just like the rest of the lighting we've chosen in the house. Picking this light was by far the quickest decision we've made so far.
"Hey, what about that one? I like that one." — "OK, let's get it. Good...that's done."
I guess by now, we know what we like ;)
11:32 p.m. — Monday, April 25,
There won't be any photos with today's entry because something is wrong with our new camera and I have to call Olympus tomorrow...
Ryan has begun patching the hardwood floors. Our neighbors must think we're crazy, hammering away at 11:30 at night. This evening, we bought a few packs of red oak planks to match our existing, beat-up oak floors. We compared the depth of our floor sample with that of the new hardwood in the store, and even the salesman confirmed that our 50-year-old floors have never been refinished. The sizes match exactly. That's great news for us, because we sure have a lot of problems to sand through.
Ryan is really enjoying this project — not just because he got to rent a floor nailer — because patching the floor back together is easy, steady, satisfying work. He said it's like a jigsaw puzzle or like Legos, and believe me when I tell you that I have married into the Lego family.
So Ryan's doing a really good job fitting in the new pieces with the old. And I love the smell of freshly-cut oak...
Tonight's entry is especially exciting for me NOT ONLY because this is my very first entry online at our new house from our OWN internet connection. But also because I am online via my OWN PERSONAL desktop computer, which has NEVER EVER been online at this house, even during the whole year we lived here before construction started. And you can be sure it was far, far away from here in the safekeeping of my parents during construction. So tonight is officially my G4s inaguaral internet run at this house. And boy is it sweet.
3:40 p.m. — Monday, April 30, 2005
Ryan finished the largest area in need of flooring earlier today. The downstairs hallway between the half bath and basement doors is now completely re-floored with new red oak planks. They are beautiful and clean, and the smell of freshtly-cut oak lingers throughout the house. He is very much enjoying the pneumatic nailer he rented from Home Depot for the second time late last night. His goal for today is to finish every part of the downstairs that requires using the nailer, so he won't have to spend another $24 to rent it again.
So after today, he'll still have to patch all the boards he ripped out from termite damage in the two old bedrooms and old living room. Seems the termites loved making meals of the oak floor, but couldn't be bothered at all with our pine subfloor. We were very happy to find a solid surface under so much damage.
As I type, I can hear him rummaging around through our hot tub box, where we keep the original oak boards cut out from the old living room floor when the hole for the basement stairs was made. Hopefully, he can reuse a lot of the old boards in the places he needs to patch.
I would love to show pictures of his handiwork—the multiple angle cuts where the hardwood meets the raised kitchen subfloor, the way he brilliantly matched the new hallway floor with the existing floor around two corners—but our camera has to be shipped back to Olympus for repairs. When I open the shutter, the lens won't extend and then the camera turns itself off. Ryan thinks it's a problem with the gears that extend the lens. Has this happened to anyone else??