Building the Faux Fireplace!

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Since I’ve been dealing with something of a forced hiatus from working on the cottage due to the gas/heat issues, I’ve taken the opportunity to refocus on my own renovation. Remember that? A lot of people in my life have assumed that since I’ve taken on a whole other renovation, my own house must be close to completion. VERY FALSE. I could try to list all the things I still need to do, but it would take you like three days to read and give me a panic attack, so just take my word for it. It’s a lot.

wallbefore

I’ve talked before about the room at the front of our house, which was likely originally a parlor. It’s the first room t0 the right when you walk in the front door (you can look at a floor plan here), and essentially rounds out the side of this floor I’ve been working on since we bought the house—first with the kitchen, then the laundry room, then the dining room. A while ago, Max and I decided that this room would be a study/library/office type space (since there’s a much larger living room right across the hall), but we’ve since sort of switched gears on that. Realistically, the “big living room” is probably a couple years off—even though I’m dying to get to it, it’s low on the priority list. I don’t want to wait that long to have some kind of space to sit and hang out and entertain, though, so I want this to be the living room for now! It’ll still house the books (or most of them, anyway), but also a couch and a couple chairs and stuff like that. I’ve been working hard to get it done-ish before the cottage drags me back into its clutches.

ANYWAY. I’ve talked about this before, but one of my big conundrums with this room was the feeling that there was something missing. The wall that the room shares with the dining room is bumped-out, and there’s this narrow/shallow little closet on the side that I’ve been informed is called a chimney cupboard, and would have been used for wood storage and whatnot. You can kind of tell from the crappy picture above (taken at our first walk-through) that there’s a large patch in the floor in front of this wall, and that the baseboard ends abruptly.

I’m not sure exactly what was here originally, but I have a couple reasonable guesses. There’s a chimney behind the wall (which has since been dismantled below the roof line, so doesn’t actually do anything), and a vent hole up near the ceiling. The floor patch indicates that there was some kind of stone hearth set into the floor here, and likely a wood-burning stove sitting on top of that. Our house was built around 1865, and since radiators didn’t come into use until the end of the century (and could have been installed here as late as the 1920s, perhaps), wood stoves would have been the original heat source. As for a mantel, it’s anyone’s guess. There’s a beautiful marble one in the big living room, but whatever used to live on this wall has been gone for a long time.

Given all of this, I had this big idea. Why not put something back in that spot? Even if it didn’t actually serve a functional purpose, a proper-looking fireplace would go a long way toward anchoring the room and providing some nice ambiance. The fireplace in our apartment is purely ornamental, but just the fact that it’s there gives the room so much. So that is what I set out to do. Fake fireplace plan: a-go.

A quick word about the fakey-ness of it all: I feel so weird about this kind of thing! I sort of think of myself as a modernist renovating an old house, and this kind of thing feels distinctly not-modernist. It’s the same feeling I get about putting up a bunch of foam ceiling medallions (which I’ve faux-aged on top of it!) or trying to recreate original molding work like I did in the laundry room. What’s so wrong with new work looking…new? Isn’t there something much more honest and authentic about just embracing all the original detail that does remain in this house, and allowing the new work and materials to just be what they are? I don’t know. I think about it a lot. But at the end of the day, I guess I want the house to seem more impeccably preserved than it actually is, for better or worse. So I’m going with it!

atjohnshouse

SO, now that I’ve written like 700 words and bored you to tears, let’s get into how this faux-fireplace party went down. It started with this mantel. Back in MAY. Yeah, this took a while from start to finish. My wonderful and insanely talented friend, John, ripped this mantel out of his house during his own renovation, but had stashed it in his basement instead of tossing it. His house was built in 1723, and this mantel was fabricated and added in the 1920s. I’d say John’s renovation sensibility is a bit more purist than mine, so he worked with a woodworker to custom build a more period-accurate mantel to replace this one (which is gorgeous, by the way). So anyway…John had a mantel, I needed a mantel, John didn’t want any money for it, I like free things…it worked out.

wallopeneduo

When I got the mantel home, I opened up the part of the wall where the old mantel would have theoretically been, wondering if I’d find a firebox or just the chimney. Just the chimney! Since there wasn’t any depth to work with inside the wall, whatever would go on the inside of the mantel had to be essentially flush with the wall. Hmmm. Hmmmmmmm.

mantelinplaceish

I dragged the mantel into place-ish (Linus assisted), just to get a sense of how it would look and feel. Even though this thing is quite a bit newer than my house, I feel like it plays really nicely with our moldings. As you can tell from the floor patch, it’s about a foot or so wider than what was here originally, which is something I sort of fretted over before deciding to just go with. I really didn’t want to get into trying to hack the mantel down to the “right” size (I liked the proportions of it as-is), and I really liked the idea of using this mantel in particular because I had it, I didn’t have to pay for it, and I liked the whole story behind it. Something new or salvaged just wouldn’t have held the same meaning to me.

hearthcutout

So, onwards! I removed the old patch job with no real plan about what was to go in its place, but sometimes you just need to dive in and figure it out later.

guttedwall

Unfortunately, this plaster wall was just beyond the point of trying to salvage. The plaster had separated a lot from the lath, it had some very significant cracks, and had undergone some failed repair attempts over the years with lots and lots of joint compound but nothing (like mesh tape, plaster buttons, or screening) to stabilize the plaster from further shifting. Even though I want to save as much of the original plaster walls in the house as possible, the best course of action here was to just start over, so that’s what I did!

lathshims

Since new 1/2″ drywall wouldn’t match the original depth of the plaster walls, I experimented with reusing the original lath strips, this time nailed directly onto the wall framing. I could have also just left all of the lath in place, but I’d already taken it down and this allowed me to still salvage the bulk of it for some other use down the road. I have no idea what to do with all my lath, but I’ll come up with something!

drywallinplace

Putting up the new drywall was no big thing. Since the underlying framing wasn’t very smooth, the drywall wasn’t either—but I had a plan! I actually wanted it to be a little irregular to mimic the look of the other plaster walls.

drywalled

I used fiberglass mesh tape and joint compound to cover the seams and screw holes. You typically do three coats of joint compound with new drywall and then finish off with a fine sanding before paint.

skimcoatingwall

I wanted to experiment with getting more of an authentic plaster look, though, so I opted to skim-coat the entire wall with joint compound. I just used the pre-mixed all-purpose stuff, and I wasn’t too careful about it: I wanted the thickness of the skim-coat to vary slightly along the surface of the wall. In some places it’s barely there at all, and in some places it’s probably about 1/8″ thick.

skimcoatedwall

Here’s a terrible picture of the whole wall skim-coated. The whiter spots are where the joint compound is thinner and dried faster. It doesn’t look at all like a textured wall or anything—it’s just very very subtly uneven so that it doesn’t stand out as looking flat and new. I sanded it all before painting and it really is indistinguishable from the plaster. Yay!

marble

Ok, moving on…one of the big challenges was figuring out the material for the hearth. There were a few options here. Sometimes, like in our apartment fireplace, you’ll see a tiled hearth—but tile is tough to pull off without the whole thing looking brand new. New tile isn’t made the same way as old tile and doesn’t have the same character, so I’d either have to get really spendy reproduction tile or find something salvage. What I thought I really wanted, though, was a nice slab of honed marble. I mean, what’s more classic and pretty than marble, right? Since the size I needed was somewhat irregular (about 75 inches with a flexible depth, ideally between about 16-24 inches) I thought maybe I could find something cheap-ish in the remnant section of a stone yard.

Wrong! I took myself to a local stone place (that mainly does countertops and stuff) and found this really gorgeous slab. It was honed, it was about the right size, and it was even a little damaged along the edges and had a couple scratches, which I sort of liked. But then it priced out at over a thousand dollars, so I burst into tears and ran away. Soapstone was even more expensive, and granite was a little cheaper but still too much money, and I didn’t want granite at all anyway.

bluestone

Then it dawned on me: what about good old Kingston bluestone? I suppose it’s even possible that that’s what was here originally, but who knows. I could probably find something that was locally quarried, super pretty, and much cheaper than marble or soapstone. It would reference Kingston history and even sort of tie into the exterior of the house, which is lined with bluestone sidewalks and pathways.

It just so happens that John, the same friend who gave me the mantel, worked for a couple of years as a stone mason when he first moved up here. My friends, bear in mind that this man is an optometrist. Almost 15 years ago at this point, he decided to take a break from optometry, pretty much just for the sake of learning something awesome that he felt passionate about, and I guess that thing was building stone walls and stuff. He worked as an apprentice under a stone mason named Sean Fox. So when I mentioned wanting bluestone, John knew who to call!

Sean was awesome to work with. I told him what I was doing and what I wanted, and he helped me find slabs that were good options. He also has the cutest German Shepherd named Dante, who is modeling the slab that I chose! The slab was thicker than I anticipated (Sean said that a thinner slab was likely to crack either during transport or once it was in place) and cost $400, which I figured was reasonable. I don’t know if I could have found the stone cheaper elsewhere, but at that point I was excited to have found something I liked and from somebody who understood what I was after. They had to cut the slab down slightly to fit my dimensions, and then burned the edges just a bit. I didn’t want it to look machine-cut, but I also didn’t want it to look overly rustic and rough-hewn, either. He did a perfect job, and I got to pick it up a week later.

FYI, bluestone is HEAVY. I don’t know how much this thing weighed, but I’d guess around a thousand pounds. Seriously! Sean loaded it into the back of John’s pick-up with a forklift, but it was up to me to figure out how to get it into my house and in place on the other end. Yikes! So one day, I finagled all of the people working over at Bluestone Cottage to take a break and walk over to my house to help with this thing. The whole ordeal was VERY STRESSFUL. I don’t have any pictures because I was helping and also shielding my eyes and generally terrified that the whole thing would go crashing through the floor and down into the basement and the whole house would collapse. But between about 6 guys, we were able to get it inside and into place and it wasn’t even as horrible as anticipated. I had to cut out a little more of the floor beforehand, but that wasn’t a big deal.

summercover

With the mantel in my possession and the hearth in the floor (and not going anywhere, ever), I still had to figure out how to sort out the space inside the mantel. I really fly by the seat of my pants, evidently! John actually gave me some cast iron insert parts that were with the mantel back at his house, but they were designed for a firebox and wouldn’t work here, since the wall doesn’t actually have any depth. I really needed something that would cover the entire surface and give the illusion of depth behind it without actually requiring it.

Enter: the fireplace cover! I went to one of the salvage places in town and found this big old rusty cast iron beauty. It isn’t so hard to find the arched (or sometimes rectangular) surrounding part, but the summer cover that goes inside it (exactly what it sounds like—a decorative cover to conceal the firebox in the months when the fireplace wouldn’t be in use) is a bit more rare—and finding the two together is even more challenging! I got really lucky that this one was waiting for me. The dimensions were perfect, and the detailing is just gorgeous! It’s definitely very Victorian (my house is more Greek Revival—in other words, pre-Victorian), but I love it all the same. It came home with me for $150, which is more than I wanted to spend, but after some poking around online seems to be a steal of a deal.

drywalltracing

OK, so! Mantel—check! Hearth—check! Summer cover—check! The next decision was AGONY. What to put between the inside edges of the mantel and the summer cover? Usually I’m pretty decisive with this stuff, but this whole project seemed so full of unknowns and opportunities to royally fuck everything up and end up with something that looked super dumb and super faux and lame and I was very afraid of that happening. The idea of tile was kind of nice, but it was the same issue with the hearth—new tile would result in the whole thing looking new and kind of cheesy, and vintage or repro tiles are so hard to come by and so expensive, and I’d already spent way more money (remember, I’m $550 deep at this point!) on this project that is purely aesthetic and was supposed to be essentially free. Then I went through this long phase where I thought about doing brick veneer tiles and painting them, but I eventually got over it and nixed that idea. I became mildly obsessed with old fireplaces everywhere I went—studying them to figure out what would look authentic and be feasible, and what I landed on was a plastered treatment. You see this a lot in old houses—maybe a brick surround that’s been plastered over and painted. Often the hearth is also painted, but I wasn’t about to slap paint on my bluestone!

So anyway. More faux. I turned the mantel around, screwed a scrap piece of 1/2″ drywall in through the back, and traced the outer edges of the cover with a sharpie. The inner part of the cover is deeper than the outer part, if that makes sense, so the outside needed a lip to sit flush with, while the inside needed a little space behind the face of the drywall. I have no idea if I’m explaining this well. Then I took a drywall knife and cut an inch or two inside my sharpie line and removed the inner piece. Then I (finally!) moved the mantel into place and secured it to the wall by screwing a few 4″ screws through the front and into studs. Then I simply patched the holes (I like Ready Patch for small things like this—it sands down smoother than wood putty) and caulked the places where the mantel meets the wall. Then I just had to patch in a few floor boards and the original molding that I pried off and saved way back when I started this whole rigamarole.

roughskimcoat

Since drywall is so flat and smooth, I used more joint compound to create the faux plaster effect. I was very liberal with it—sort of slathering it on with a 6″ putty knife, intentionally creating and leaving ridges and imperfections along the way. You can sort of tell from the picture how the texture looks, but it wasn’t super evident until I got to the painting step. Anyway, once everything had about 36 hours to dry, I gave it the lightest sanding and moved on.

wirecupbrush

Because the summer cover had been sitting outside for so long at the salvage place and was covered in rust, I used this wire brush attachment on my drill to clean up the surface and prepare it for paint. These things are great for stuff like this! Then I went back in with a regular wire brush to get in the nooks and crannies of the pattern. I’d say all the prep took maybe an hour, and then I just wiped it down with a damp microfiber cloth and let it dry.

coveron

Securing the cover ended up being easier than anticipated. Before I put the whole thing in place, I painted a piece of drywall black and screwed that into the studs, so that you don’t see the framing through the holes in the summer cover pattern. Because the summer cover interlocks with the outer part, all I did to secure the whole assembly was use existing holes in the summer cover pattern. I drove two large screws into the studs behind—you can sort of see the screws in the picture above. The heads are sunk into the existing holes in the pattern, and after the paint, you have to really search for them. Nobody will ever notice except me. And everyone I tell.

painting

FINALLY, PAINT TIME! I had about half a can of high-gloss black oil paint from the failed kitchen floor experiment of yore, and so I broke it out here. This makes the project, as far as I’m concerned. The gloss black accentuates the texture of the faux-plaster business and the intricacy of the summer cover, but I think keeps everything looking understated and classic and pretty. Oil paint is so nice to work with once in a while for small stuff like this—there’s really nothing like it. After this first coat, I caulked at the transition between the cover and the faux-plastered surround and then painted a second coat. The finish is so hard and smooth and pretty. I’m thrilled with how it turned out!

fireplace3

ANNNNDDDDD, DONE. I love it. I really do. It completely changes the room. I don’t feel like it dominates, but it does provide a focal point and just a certain ambiance that was missing before. And I feel like it just fits—like you’d never walk into the house and think it was added recently or even really pay a lot of attention to it at all. That’s exactly what I wanted.

Fireplace2

I’m happy with the way it ended up fitting on the wall, too! Even though it’s a little wider than whatever was here originally, I don’t think it feels out of place or two big for the room.

I love the bluestone, but I do keep wondering what would happen if I tried to darken it up a little bit. I’m sort of afraid to touch it because I don’t want to ruin it, but I wonder if mineral oil would have the same kind of effect on this that it does on soapstone? I don’t know. I’ll live with it for a while and see how I’m feeling some other time.

I’m resisting showing wider shots of the room because it’s actually almost done! Told you I’ve been working hard. There are still a few major items to check off the to-do list, but I’m super excited about the way it’s coming together. It’s so weird and exciting to have this whole other usable space in the house! I can’t wait!

Planning the Cottage Interior: The Second Floor

Now that we’ve gone over how the layout of the first floor of the cottage is going to change, let’s move on to the second floor (which we toured here!)! I appreciate the feedback on the first floor—even though the basic framing work is more or less complete already, there are still a million and one things to think about before I start really putting things back together. Luckily I have some time since I still have to get all the mechanical stuff (HVAC, plumbing, electric, insulation—oh my!) sorted before I can start beautifying, but hopefully not too much time. I want to move on to the fun stuff!

As with the first floor, the major framing work has more or less been completed at this point on the second, but I still think it’s important to get a sense of this stuff before I dive into the process of how it all actually went down. I’m psyched about the first floor, but I’m really excited about the second floor. I feel like I’ve had a better sense since Day 1 of how I want it to look and feel up there, and it just has so much potential. I think it’s going to be pretty spectacular.

I wanted to get this post up a few days ago, but then I got obsessed with trying to make the SketchUp models more accurate by showing the pitch of the walls and ceilings. I DID IT FOR YOU, SO TRY TO ENJOY IT. It was really hard because I’m bad at computers and it’s not perfect but I have to tear myself away and move on. Playing with SketchUp is a lot like how I played The Sims for hours on end as a kid, except there isn’t a virtual person you can create and then brutally starve at the end of it all. Kids are monsters.

exterior

Anyway, the reason the ceilings are so important is that there’s no attic in the house, so the plan is to vault the ceilings! I’m so excited about this, and just how much bigger and brighter the whole space will feel as a result. I’m including this sketch of the exterior (excuse the lack of windows or doors downstairs…you get the idea) to show the basic shape of the roof line. Funny, right? The way it pitches in two different directions?

I’ve mentioned before that I think this house was originally some sort of secondary structure for one of the neighboring houses, like a carriage house or something. The “middle” section, where the roof pitches oppositely from the back and front, is the old, original part of the structure—this is the area that currently houses the dining room and staircase downstairs and will become a bathroom upstairs. The front section of the house appears to be a product of two separate additions, and the back of the house (where the kitchen and smaller bedroom are) are another addition. I think that the original section dates from about the mid-19th century and the additions all seem to be early 20th. I’m trying to get more information about it.

ANYWAY, you might be able to tell on the renderings that the whole roof situation causes some funny quirks with the space, but I don’t mind!

secondfloorbeforeandafter

These before/after renderings don’t take into account the pitch of the roof, since I thought it was easier to see what was going on without that. As with before, the bottom of the photo is the front of the house, so let’s start there!

Welcome to the new master bedroom! It’s large and wonderful. The old space was so weird and chopped up, what with the two closets at the front of the house and the only bathroom in the house basically built into the room. The bathroom was the real problem here—the bathroom itself was small, and it made the rest of the room feel cramped and unpleasant.

bedroombeforeandafter

If you take the front exterior wall of the house away, this is more or less how things look! That bed in the “after” rendering is so ugly. Oh 3D Warehouse…

SO. The two closets in the front flanking the windows get removed entirely, and traded for closets along the back wall of the room, flanking the door. I originally planned to keep the existing closets, but they seemed to take up a lot of space without actually providing very much storage because of the sloped ceiling, and made the whole room feel a little closed in. The new closets are much bigger and have some usable height for shelving and whatnot, and are more out of the way. Obviously they’re going to have doors and stuff…I think I have a plan for this all to look great and not awkward like it does on the plan.

One thing to note is that I didn’t include the collar-ties in the rendering (the horizontal framing pieces that tie the rafters together), but those will be here and will be exposed. I’m planning to just paint them white and I think they’ll be nice! I’d definitely rather see the painted collar ties and have the ceiling go all the way up to the peak of the roof than do a flat ceiling, even though Edwin thinks I’m crazy.

The bedroom door gets shifted over a couple of feet, basically to where the old bathroom door used to be. I’ll reuse the old 5 panel door, of course!

hallwaybeforeandafter

Moving toward the back of the house, this is the area above the dining room. If this house were bigger, it would have been nice to leave this area totally open as a nice reading nook kind of zone, but that would just be a big waste of space here. Instead, I’ve narrowed the hallway somewhat (it’s still 4 feet wide, so the size is still fairly generous), and added a little over 6 feet of closet space that will go from floor to ceiling. The closet is about 18″ deep—perfect for linens and just general storage. I know firsthand how difficult storage can be in a small space, so I’m trying to take any opportunity I can to build it in!

Spoiler: originally I wanted to vault all of the ceilings in the upstairs, but once we gutted and Edwin and I talked (and talked, and talked, and talked), it became clear that vaulting the ceiling in this middle section was not a great option. There were so many crazy angles with the two different roof pitches and a LOT of necessary framing to get everything stabilized and safe…you’ll see. It’s totally fine, though—we were still able to raise the ceiling several inches from what it was, and I think it will be somehow more interesting and dramatic to vault the ceilings just in the bedrooms.

bathroom

There isn’t really anything to see in the “before” rendering of the bathroom. Essentially the room was a bit narrower (because the old hallway was wider) and was being called a third bedroom, but it was really small and weird as a bedroom. This bathroom is going to be NICE, though. It’s definitely pretty spacious (especially for an old house and one of this size) but not stupidly huge, and I think it’s just going to be all-around really great. The plan is a toilet, tub (I’m picturing something kind of 1920s, with a curved corner preferably!)) and double sinks. These sinks aren’t at all what I’m picturing—they were just the first ones I could get to load in SketchUp. I’d love to do two vintage pedestal sinks or wall-mounted ones or something, although I know people will shit all over me if I don’t build in some storage. I’ll figure it out!

Anyway, I’m excited about the bathroom. I spend too much time thinking about fixtures and materials and endlessly debating whether to put in a tile floor or not. I’m leaning toward yes…I have LOTS of flooring to patch in elsewhere so I could use the old boards, and it would be pretty luxe to do radiant floor heat in here, and it might brighten things up a bit besides. It wouldn’t be very expensive.

backbedroom

The second bedroom (which is smaller but still a nice size and easily fits a full bed) undergoes the fewest changes of any room! The ceiling is getting vaulted in here, too (again, with exposed and painted collar-ties), and you’ll notice that I did decide to lose the closet. I know, scandal! I mentioned this back when we toured the second floor prior to demo and a lot of people gave me virtual stink-eye, but it’s the best thing for in here. I checked with the building department and there is definitely no requirement in Kingston for a bedroom to have a dedicated closet to be called a bedroom, so that isn’t an issue. I don’t think buyers necessarily expect it here, either…old houses typically don’t have closets, and pretty much all the houses here are old! The rendering might help (or not?) show that the closet didn’t actually provide a lot of storage space, but it was really large and sort of took over the room. It feels SO much bigger and nicer without it. There’s still space for a nice freestanding armoire, which will achieve the same thing but just fit the space so much better.

So there it is, the second floor! I’m excited to show pictures of the space all framed out—it’s so exciting for me at least to see it at this stage, when you can really get a sense of how the space is going to pan out.

Planning the Cottage Interior: The First Floor!

It’s been a minute since we checked in on the old Bluestone Cottage, hasn’t it? This time of year always feels especially warp-speed-ish. I can’t be the only one who feels like this. It’s like October lasted 10-15 minutes, November went on for roughly the blink of an eye, and now it’s basically 2015, which more than likely means another year has gone by and, once again, I failed to make good on any of my resolutions. I have still used my gym membership exactly once, my email inbox remains a total disgrace for which I have yet to devise an effective system, my body has still never been cleansed with juice for multiple days…WHERE did 2014 go? I guess for 2015 I’ll just roll over everything from 2014 and maybe add “avoid attacks by swarms of leeches,” just to feel like I have new and accomplishable goals. Anyway, not the point. Ignore me.

I kind of wish things were moving faster in renovation-land, though.

Good News:

1. The cottage is still standing.

2. I’m still alive.

3. My house is also still standing.

4. Spoiler: the framing at the cottage is pretty much DONE. And has been for a few weeks.

Bad News:

1. Ideally, the next steps would be running the new HVAC system, roughing in plumbing, diving into the electrical, insulating, and starting the real fun of new walls and fixtures and finishes and all that jazz. Unfortunately, I need gas to do the HVAC, and the gas line running from the main at the street to the house needs to be redone. For reasons that are almost too complicated and definitely too annoying to even really get into, I’ve been trying to get the utility company to do this for about 6 weeks at this point, and I really don’t know when it will happen. It’s mega-annoying. It’s also probably the worst time of year to try to be booking the plumber, since winter usually means burst pipes and emergencies and everyone trying to get their heat systems working at once, and I’m not really an emergency. Anyway. Hopefully the next couple of weeks will see more progress than the last few have!

2. It is COLD outside. And without a heat system, the inside of the cottage is exactly as cold as the outside. Which makes it a very difficult place to work. Hence the lack of progress. I’m trying to muster the strength to go over there for a few hours for a good pre-plumbing-extravaganza-clean-out, but I’m a wimp. I really just need to bundle up and bring a little space heater and completely dissociate from my body and it’ll all be OK. Or I’ll die. One of the two.

3. The exterior of the cottage is close to complete-ish, but not quite there. The windows all still need lots of work, some of which might be above my skill set and necessitate the abilities and tools of a professional. There are still a few things I need to paint, but I’m worried it’s too cold. Maybe we’ll get a warm day when I can bang it out.

4. The stall caused by the HVAC/plumbing stuff at the cottage has forced me back inside my own house, thereby forcing me to confront all the work that I still need to do. Progress seems freakishly, comically slow and drawn-out. There is still no library, no pantry, nary a wall has been painted since the dining room, and I’m getting antsy and impatient. I’ve been chipping away at some stuff, though, so my goal is to check some big items off the list before the cottage consumes me again. If our own house was even a little less under construction, I think I’d feel a lot better, but right now the amount of stuff left to do is kind of overwhelming and the house is a damn mess.

SO. I haven’t really been sure how to blog about all the new framing work. It’s hard to just show pictures of it happening because it won’t make a ton of sense, and the pictures themselves are sort of hard to decipher. I’ll be back in a separate post to talk about the process of it all, but I figured a logical place to kick this thing off would be reviewing the floor plan. We’ve already done a pre-demo tour of the upstairs and the downstairs, but I know that it’s difficult to understand the space as a whole without seeing it all laid out! Hopefully this will help. This post is kind of long so I’ll save the second floor plan for next time.

Sound like a plan? GREAT.

Oh, FYI, my SketchUp skills are really elementary and these renderings were just for my own reference, the building department, and for me to help explain stuff to Edwin as we actually built it. None of the furniture is even remotely what I see in here; it was just helpful to have a sense of how things would fit. So ignore the ugly.

1STFLOORBEFOREANDAFTER

The bottom of the picture is the front of the house, just in case that wasn’t clear!

So—some big changes! Pretty much the only thing I was sure about when I bought the house was that the wall in the front had to go. It created this small, awkward room at the front of the house that just felt like completely wasted space. This house is really just too small to have some sort of entrance space like that, or a sun room different than the living room, or whatever. In the new plan, the wall gets blown out and the space becomes part of the living room.

Naturally, everyone who looked at the wall prior to demo said it didn’t seem to be load-bearing, but as a few readers guessed the first time I mentioned taking the wall out, it was load-bearing! That doesn’t mean that the wall can’t come out, it just means that a beam needs to go in its place to carry the load. I know that sounds like a huge deal but it really wasn’t.

frontview1

This is just a section cut showing how things look when you take the front wall of the house away, and the effect of removing that first interior wall. I know this living room looks very stupid and ridiculous in the model, but it won’t be in real life! It’s a nice size, but I didn’t want to make it too big…since the ceiling height is so low, I think it would feel really strange if the room was too expansive. Like someone’s finished basement. This feels right for this house, and it’s plenty big for a normal couch, a couple chairs, and a credenza or bookshelves or something. I intentionally designed it so there would be multiple possible/practical furniture layouts, which is sort of a luxury for a relatively small space.

One of the most significant changes to the first floor is shifting the through-traffic to the left side of the house instead of sort of awkwardly cutting through the center. It’s obviously a very simple plan but I think it will work a lot better, especially with furniture. Wouldn’t it be annoying to get from the living room, through the dining room, and into the kitchen with the old plan? Once you put a dining room table in the middle of the room? I like this much more.

iso

You might notice that a window disappeared in the living room area! I really resisted moving or replacing any windows, and ideally would have done it before the house was painted, but I wasn’t sure about the interior when that was happening and it ended up falling right in the middle of that wall. I’m still considering whether I should put a couple small windows back on that wall…the large windows in the front let in lots of light, and that view on the side isn’t nice, so I’m sort of inclined to just patch in the clapboard outside and call it a day.

I went back and forth on putting a half bath in this house, but it’s one of those modern conveniences that people like, should increase the property value, and shouldn’t cost a ton to do. That small space before it I’m picturing as a small coat/storage closet. I know it’s sort of a strange arrangement to walk through to get to the bathroom, but I think it makes the bathroom feel a little more secluded and out of the way than having a door right in the living room. It also preserves that wall in the living room as a place you could put a couch on or a sideboard or whatever. I think if I buy or build a wardrobe thing with doors, it won’t feel awkward.

The dining room is staying more or less the same, except for the wall to the right of the chimney (elegantly represented here by that square pillar thing). I went back and forth on this, too…pre-renovation, it had been opened up as kind of a pass-through bar thing, which was sort of nice for the amount of light it let into the dining room. I know opening up spaces like that is popular with modern renovations, but I don’t really like seeing it in old houses, so I decided to close the wall back up! I think aligning the doorways and creating a straight shot from the front door to the back of the house will actually make the house seem more open than it was before, even though it’s really more closed up. Anyway, I like the idea of building some kind of storage into that space, like an old china cabinet/hutch situation. Maybe I can find something good salvaged, but if not I wouldn’t mind trying to DIY it. I’ve never built cabinets before!

kitchenbeforeafter

The “before” rendering of the kitchen is pretty generous since there weren’t actually cabinets or a sink when I bought the house, but I think this is similar to how things might have been set up. In any case, the big decision in here was whether or not to cover over the old basement stairs. Those stairs were originally on the exterior of the structure, but the addition of the kitchen brought them indoors. Maintaining the original stairs would have meant either boxing in the opening with walls, a banister, or devising a clever trap door solution…all of which were not really ideal solutions in my mind. I didn’t want to make the kitchen feel smaller with more walls and the trap door makes the basement sort of lousy as usable space (since access would be a hassle) and means that that area of the kitchen couldn’t really be used for anything else. I asked Edwin for a separate quote to add new basement stairs stacked under the original staircase and it was $800, plus another $400 to frame in the old opening and do some significant repair work to the existing joists under the kitchen floor, some of which had rotted due to water damage. It’s another one of those costs I wish I could have avoided, but that price seemed really reasonable and entirely worth it. The kitchen can be so much nicer as a result! So in the new plan, I have the fridge and some tall pantry-type cabinets on that wall, and a straight run of cabinets (lowers, but no uppers) with the stove and sink opposite. I think the kitchen is going to be great! I love a good kitchen renovation.

I hope that clears up the first floor! I’ll be back with second floor plans ASAP and we can all find out together how many horrendous SketchUp models we can look at before our eyes start to bleed. It’ll be fun!

IKEA, Fakesgiving, and some stuff I like.

I was one of those kids who was really interested in the private lives of my teachers. In third grade, I still had trouble reading words over about 5 letters long, but I knew where my teacher was from (Louisiana), her daughter’s name and age (Alexa, age 14), where she lived (a townhouse not far from us), the breed, age, and weight of her dog (Beagle, Rocket, approx. 40 pounds—he was a sausage), his diet to help him slim down (mixing canned green beans into his dog food), among plenty of other stuff. All of the arbitrary details that my instructors would just sort of offhandedly mention somehow got filed into this creepy subconscious Catalogue of Important Facts in my young brain, which evidently didn’t leave a lot of room for stuff like multiplication and division. Those things took way longer for me to pick up.

I’m still basically like this. I often forget what some of our close friends even do for a living, but I remember exactly where they’re from, where they went to school, when, how, and where they met their longterm boyfriend (whose occupation I similarly cannot recall), the name of their childhood family dog. It’s a mild issue in my life.

In college, I had this amazing writing professor. I loved him. Everything on the syllabus was so good and stuff I’d never read before, and his critique was always spot on, and he was just the best. He was a Serious Writer—published many times over, awarded, that type of thing—and the other students seemed to split between about 10% total reverence and 90% complete fear. It was a seminar-style class so really that 10% represents 1 person. Maybe 2. But anyway. He was great.

Why was he great? Well, I can’t totally remember by most typical metrics. Writing. Awards. I told you more or less what I know already. But one thing I do know is that he lived in Red Hook in Brooklyn, which is where IKEA is. And one time after class I casually asked if he ever went to IKEA for lunch, or just to hang out, because I’d probably do that if I lived within walking distance. And that’s when it started.

“Oh my god, have you seen the new PS collection? So much good stuff.”

“I really need a new sofa, but I can’t decide between the KARLSTAD and the KIVIK.”

“The only thing I miss about my old apartment is my PAX wardrobe. That thing was magic.”

It turned into a weekly thing. 3 hour seminar, followed by hour-long conversation outside about the merits of various IKEA products and our general, genuine love for the place. We were kindred IKEA spirits, and it was beautiful. This one time, another student tried to join in and make the case that IKEA was not all we were cracking it up to be, and things did not end well for that student. Because here’s the thing: whether you like the IKEA shopping experience or assembling the products or the products themselves at all, these things don’t negate that IKEA, I think, is the only company that has actually fulfilled the promise of modern design. Mass produced, affordable, well-designed products for regular people. That’s pretty exceptional. In the world of IKEA, nearly anybody is entitled to live with good design. I don’t really think of myself as having a lot of fondness for multi-billion dollar corporations, but clearly I have a soft spot.

A few weeks ago, something happened: IKEA approached Max and me about putting together a little Thanksgiving story. Since obviously it would have to run before actual Thanksgiving, I have been referring to it as Fakesgiving. They wanted Max to do the photography and post about it on Design*Sponge (where he’s senior editor now—go Max!), but I guess they wanted me to be in a picture or two and help style and then tweet about it. At first I was like…”wait, I’m not even supposed to write my own post? But I have so much to say!” But then I was like…”screw it, I’m going to write a post anyway.” So we decided on kind of a simple, modest Scandinavia-meets-Hudson-Valley vibe, got to go pick up a few IKEA products I’ve had my eye on, cook a bunch of food, and set up Fakesgiving in our dining room at 2 in the afternoon. It was a good practice run for when we do it for real. Then we invited a couple of friends over that night, stuck everything back in the oven for a bit, and pretended it was all for them.

So there. The Thanksgiving story is posted over on Design*Sponge, featuring a couple of recipes I made and some nice pictures of our dining room all gussied up. Instead of rehashing that post here, I woke up this morning thinking it might be fun to throw together a few of my current favorite IKEA products—some new, some old standbys. Just, you know, because. For the love of it I guess.

ikea

1. RYSSBY 2014 Pitcher: How very adorable is this sweet enameled pitcher thing? It’s got that classic rustic kind of vibe I like for our house because it blends nicely with vintage/antique serving ware and whatnot. I don’t think I’ll ever get over my enamel phase.

2. RYSBBY 2014 Throw: We threw this on top of my DIY bench at Fakesgiving, and it’s so cute! We already have a couple of heavy-duty thick wool blankets around the house, so I actually like that this one is on the thinner side—easier to throw over the arm of a couch or a chair and just a nice, cozy throw. So classic and sweet.

3. FULLFÖLJA Scissors: I haven’t seen these in person, but that’s a cute set of scissors! I love IKEA for useful, pretty, simple items like this. Their stainless steel and wood spoons are almost all we have in our kitchen for cooking utensils, and the quality is excellent.

4. UTBUD Serving Bowl: For some reason I can’t seem to find this on the website, but this bowl is really nice! It’s very sizable—perfect for serving big salads and stuff like that. We have a lot of vintage/antique stoneware bowls I’ve collected here and there (Max has actually put a moratorium on bowl-buying…lame), but I generally only really use them for dry foods like breads and nuts and stuff. This one mixes in seamlessly with the collection, but without possibly hazardous lead in the glazing and wear from years of use. It’s delightfully heavy.

5. SENIOR Casserole + Lid: When I bought this pot about a year ago, I actually considered writing a whole post about it because it’s just that nice. The outside is enameled cast iron and the inside is cast iron, and the whole thing is appropriately thick and weighty. I’ve grown to really like cooking on cast iron—it retains and distributes heat so well, and a well-seasoned pot/pan is fairly non-stick by nature. This one leaves nothing to be desired, honestly—it’s the highest quality piece of cookware I own, and it’s good-looking. I don’t own the smaller casserole or the pan, but I always really want to buy them if only just to round out the set in case they get discontinued.

6. TEKLA Dish Towel: I love the simplicity of the TEKLA dish towel. I use them for tons of stuff, but I like for mine to go through a very specific cycle: when they’re new, they make really pretty, casual-fancy napkins (especially in the DIY copper napkin rings I made for Fakesgiving!). Once they get a couple stains that don’t come out in the wash, they turn into dish towels. Once those start to wear out or get a little ratty looking, they go into the cleaning/shop rag category. Not bad for a 79-cent item!

7. KASTRULL Pot: As soon as these came out (there’s a smaller saucepan, too), I really wanted an excuse to buy one or both. Fakesgiving was my excuse. They’re just very adorable. Since they’re enamel over fairly thin steel, these probably aren’t going to cut it as everyday cookware, but they’re great for things like sauces and soups (and gravy, Fakesgiving style). I learned this the hard way with my Dansk-Kobenstyle pot, which is similar—thinner enamel cookware just doesn’t hold up well to cooking where stuff is liable to get stuck. But anyway. Cute.

8. GUNNERN Lockable Cabinet, Red: I just bought one of these recently, and the quality is GREAT. It actually came all in one piece, too! I like that it locks, because I like secrets.

9. SANNOLIKT Curtain Rod: Woah, hold the phone. I’m really weirdly into this curtain rod, and this is coming from somebody who really struggles (insofar as one can really struggle) with curtains. A big part of my issue with curtains is that finding a good rod is tough. This one I could get down with, though, and I can see it working well in all kinds of spaces. I’ll have to check it out in person next time I’m there, but this picture has me intrigued.

10. RYSSBY 2014 Cushion Cover: I keep my eyes out for fun, graphic throw pillow covers (I feel like it’s surprisingly hard to find good ones) and these are cute! Printing it on the unbleached linen/cotton blend really makes it, I think. The two sides also have different designs, so it’s kind of like two pillows in one! I like a ton of the stuff from the RYSSBY linethe cake stand has this same pattern on it, and we used that to serve pie at Fakesgiving. In other news, I have a cake stand now! FANCY. PANTSY.

Remember to go check out Fakesgiving on Design*Sponge! Is IKEA part of your holiday tablescapes?

I can’t believe I just wrote “tablescapes.” LOL.

But seriously I want to know.

This post is kind-of-sort-of-but-not-really in partnership with IKEA USA? Thanks, Big Blue n’ Yellow!

I Like This
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Gutting the Cottage.

pile

Here’s how I thought things would pan out with the cottage:

1. Finish the exterior.

2. Take a week off from the cottage, maybe.

3. Gut the interior.

4. You know, the rest of it.

It was all going to be very orderly and civilized.

That’s not what happened, though. Instead, it rained. That’s all it really took. I was about halfway through building the planters outside and I had some extra hands with me, and after an hour or so of working outside in the rain and the mud, I’d hit my limit. It was wet and cold and I had to just call it. Screw civility and order! Let’s wreck some shit.

Demo-ing the interior of the cottage was bittersweet. I feel like a normal gut renovation usually entails removing beautiful and/or salvageable materials and sending them to a landfill, only to be replaced by new stuff that will never have the same quality or character as what was there before. It’s wasteful and destructive and horrible, generally. But that doesn’t really apply here. I’m pretty sure I saved everything worth saving (and probably some stuff that wasn’t), but there wasn’t much. I hated sending so much stuff to a landfill, but it really was trash—broken, beyond the point of repair, with no potential for reuse. Sad.

BUT. It was all very very exciting, too. I’m guessing the house saw a pretty major overhaul sometime in the 40s or 50s (and then some other changes later on), so everything was finished in (very, very damaged) drywall. The kitchen was already pretty much gone, the bathroom fixtures were all inexpensive and lightweight…considering the entire interior of the house had to go, none of the work was all that grueling. And stripping the scary cosmetic stuff away felt good. Underneath the damage and grime and mess, this house looks more or less like any other house. Probably way better than my house would look without walls! It already looks way better, at least to me.

kitchenbefore

Remember where we started off? That kitchen…shudder. It was bad news.

kitchen

See? Better! The studs and joists and sheathing are all in good shape, which is great to see. This isn’t how windows and doors are framed nowadays, but they’ve been holding up fine for a long time and I’m not worried about them. It should be grandfathered in when the framing gets inspected. The whole house is balloon-framed, too, meaning the studs on the exterior walls go all the way from the sill plate above the foundation to the top plate below the rafters. Also not how things are done anymore, but it’s sort of fun to see! It also makes running electrical a little easier, which is nice I guess.

You can’t tell from the picture, but the opening to the kitchen from the dining room has NO support! None. This is a load-bearing wall, and the studs are just cut off at the ceiling. That’s not good! It’s sort of surprising there isn’t a sag (or, you know, the whole thing didn’t collapse). It’s totally fixable, though…just need to beef up the opening and add a header and we’ll be in business. That was actually part of my plan, anyway—to make this opening a *bit* smaller and more defined. Right now it’s sort of trying and failing to be “open-concept” and I don’t want that for this house. Even though this renovation is going to be about 90% new (I reserve 10% for the floors, doors, and windows), I want it to feel old and authentic to what could have been here.  I’ll obviously talk a lot more about that later. Like probably too much. Like probably so much that you’ll want to set me on fire.

upstairs-2

ANYWAY. It was very hard to take a lot of pictures during demo, partly because I was covered in grime and pulling things apart and partly because maybe millions of photos aren’t that necessary. Piles and piles of debris. That’s pretty much it.

This is the middle section of the upstairs, which is the oldest section of the house.  The ceiling here is LOW—like 6’8″, so on the agenda is sorting out the framing in the ceiling and hopefully gaining at least a few inches in the process. It’s nice to see the chimney, but it needs some repairs and I think I’m going to have to repoint it. I’d like to maintain it, though…it’s one of the few original things left in the house and I think exposing the brick will add some nice texture and character to the renovated space.

upstairsroof

Check out that cobweb situation! I wish it had been possible to get better shots of this stuff, because the structural stuff up in here is bonkers. The roof in the middle/oldest section of the house pitches oppositely from how the roofs in the front and the back pitch, leaving some very strange framing in the middle. Nothing was done correctly when the additions were made, so a lot of the framing just got hacked away at over the years instead of properly supported and whatnot. Half of the rafters are sort of just floating there, and the collar ties are floating on the floating rafters, and the whole thing is just insane and bad.

upstairs3

This is the new view from the big bedroom in the front to the back! See what I mean about nothing really being supported in the middle there? But it’ll be OK. The framing job is definitely going to be more extensive than I’d really bargained for, but it’s all fixable. It’ll be solid as a rock soon enough.

By the way, that opening on the right side in this picture, close to the stair banister? That’s the doorway to the old bathroom! The whole thing is GONE and it feels so good! This master bedroom is going to be so amazing without a big bathroom carved into it. I’ll put together a post soon with before/after floor plans so you can get a better sense of this stuff. I’m sure this is a little confusing.

debrispile

So…the debris piles were MASSIVE. There were very large vent holes in the floor in both the front and back bedrooms (to allow heat to travel to the upstairs), which proved SUPER helpful during demo since we could just throw almost everything through the holes and down to the first floor.

Since I sort of jumped the gun on demo, I wasn’t totally prepared with, say, a plan to get rid of all this waste. I’d asked about dumpsters at the Department of Public Works back in mid-September when I first started working on this house, and it sounded simple enough. Since this property doesn’t have a driveway, I’d need to get a permit to place the dumpster on the street, but the folks at Public Works made that sound fairly fast and painless.

Then it came time to actually get the dumpster, and it was not fast and painless. Everyone I’ve dealt with in Kingston city government has been wonderful (and very supportive of this project!), but I think the Public Works folks are a little underfunded and overworked and even just getting a call back was a little difficult. Not having a dumpster was starting to become a problem on my end, since the house was so overloaded with debris that nothing could really get done. And then I finally did hear back and…no dumpster. They’d decided that the street was too narrow to place a dumpster even for a very short period (I offered to fill it in a day or two), so I’d have to figure out something else.

Entire house, completely gutted. No dumpster. How. Why.

This was not terrific news.

The only work-around I could really think of was putting the dumpster in my driveway and somehow transporting all the waste from this house to my house, but that seemed a little insane. It would probably have taken like 30 Bagsters to clear out the whole house, and since those wind up running about $200 per bag here, that was also not a good option. So the only thing left was to take it all to the dump ourselves.

One of the guys who’s been working for me mentioned that his dad had a small-ish trailer for the back of his car that we could use, and my wonderful contractor Edwin offered up the use of his monster truck, so that’s how it started.

truckdumpster

Nice, right? We parked the truck right on the sidewalk, hoped we wouldn’t get ticketed (we didn’t), and brought stuff out on wheelbarrows. We had a few people and two wheelbarrows, so it worked out. A couple people worked on filling the wheelbarrows, and a couple of people moved them from the house, up that wobbly ramp, and into the truck. It wasn’t horrible! Then we strapped a tarp over the whole thing and drove it off while a few people stayed behind to load the trailer. The dump (technically, the Transfer Station) closes at 2:15 in the afternoon here, so we only got three trips in on the first day, but it made a surprisingly big dent in the mess. I should probably get myself one of those trailers at some point. So handy!

dump

The dump was nuts, by the way. I feel like every single person should be required to go to the dump at least once. Schools should take field trips there. It’s not like I’m totally unaware of where my garbage goes, but it’s a different thing to really see it in action and on this kind of scale…and Kingston is not a big city. Huge trucks bring huge loads of garbage into this huge warehouse space. Then huge backhoes push it around and into a pile. Then other huge backhoes take the pile and drop it into a huge hole in the floor, where a huge tractor-trailer is parked. When the tractor-trailer gets full, it drives the trash out to…I don’t even know where. A landfill in some other part of the country, probably. It’s impossible to even fathom the environmental impact of all of this…and the fact that it’s like this here pretty much all day, everyday, and there are places exactly like this everywhere else, too. The whole thing makes my head spin, obviously.

So anyway. Be mindful of your waste. Compost. Recycle. Freecycle. Don’t tear down old houses. The end.

goodies

I did scoop up a couple of treasures from the dump, though! Can you believe someone was throwing these away? So frustrating! The thing that was really aggravating was that one of the workers told me I technically wasn’t allowed to take them, but he’d make an exception. I mean, I sort of understand that they can’t really have people rifling through the dump around heavy machinery and stuff all day looking for crap to take home or take to a scrap yard and get paid for, but come on. There must be a better way! The whole thing is just upsetting. But anyway. I don’t even know if I’ll end up staging this house for sale or what, but a pretty vintage fan and beautiful antique sewing machine for free? Don’t mind if I do.

Oh! Somehow I didn’t get a picture, but the city did end up throwing me a bone and letting me use a city dump truck for a couple days. It was the smallest of the city dump trucks—essentially the capacity of 2 pick-ups—which was the biggest thing they were comfortable parking on the street. They also waived the typical fee (which I think is like $50 a day) for me, presumably due to my good looks and charm, which was super nice and they totally didn’t have to do. So I only had to pay for the disposal fees, which are calculated by weight, and it made things a little easier since I only had to load the truck, not unload it on the other end. Thanks, Kingston!

scrapyard

I also made a couple of trips to the scrap metal yard! There ended up being a fair amount of metal left in the house…the old baseboard radiator covers, a few of the radiators themselves (which are a copper pipe with aluminum fins attached), and a little bit of copper plumbing. The scrap yard is a little more heartening than the dump since you get paid for what you bring (based on the type of material and the weight), and everything is getting recycled, but it was still maddening!

stove

I spotted this beautiful antique wood stove sitting at the top of a scrap pile (terrible picture, sorry!) and offered to buy it back (for what purpose, I don’t even know), and they wouldn’t let me! So frustrating. Again, I sort of get the liability issue and all that, but it seems more than a little ridiculous that beautiful, probably still useful items can’t just be reused instead of melted down or whatever. Right? I’m aware that lots of scrap yards actually have shops where they keep stuff like this so people can do that very thing, but that doesn’t exist at either of the two scrap metal yards I’ve been to in Kingston. Super annoying, right? I’m just glad I didn’t see any clawfoot tubs or I might have actually had a heart attack.

So anyway. Getting rid of the garbage was in many ways a bigger project than the demo was. All in all, between 1 Bagster, 3 loads in the city dump truck, and 7 pick-up truck loads, I’ve had to dump about 14,000 pounds of trash. That’s a lot of trash. I feel shitty about it, but I don’t think there was really any way around it.  All of the disposal came out to the tune of $853.64, which is a decent amount of money but probably about half what it would have been if I was renting a dumpster on top of it, so I guess it all came out for the best. I also made back $254.10 in scrap metal (who woulda thought?), so that helps offset the dumping cost a bit.

upstairs

But hey look! After lots and lots of sweeping and clearing and sorting and mess, the house is pretty clean. It stayed this way for about .5 seconds, though—framing actually began the same day as the last day of demo work! Madness! So it felt like as soon as one mess was kind of almost cleaned up, another mess started. That’s kind of just how it goes. A huge part of my life these days is just managing mess. I go through a lot of respirator masks. And contractor bags. And I come home looking like I’ve been down in the mines all day. It’s way cute.

That big pile of wood in the corner got saved, by the way! I was really careful about trying to get all the trim out in full pieces and save it all, which ended up being a TON of wood (this is just one of multiple piles). A lot of it is very dirty and some of it is flakey and it’s all very multi-colored, but there’s nothing really wrong with it and I figure I can probably reuse a lot of it when the times comes for that! Keeps it out of a landfill and keeps me from having to buy all that trim which would end up being very costly. It’s mostly just 1×4 or 1×6 or some weird size in between, but I figure I can always rip pieces down, maybe add some detail with my router, that kind of thing. I’m sort of excited to see what can be done with it all. It’s like a big puzzle! In the meantime, I’ve finally finished pulling all of the nails out of it all so that the pile can be a little more orderly and easier to manage.

bathrom

Diary time? Are we over this yet? I feel so woefully behind but I’m trying to catch up!

Day 15: Worked outside with Chris setting deck blocks while Kodi, Mike, and Mikey worked on moving dirt to my backyard. I worked on planters with Kodi while Chris began demo’ing pink bedroom with Mike. Need to pick up 4 more deck blocks.

Day 16: Chris and Chris on demo duty inside. Mike and Mike on excavating yard outside. Me and Kodi finished planters. Edwin came with power washer. Took a break to move bluestone hearth into my library. Cody and I began installing decking. Finished excavating yard with Edwin’s truck. Cody and I finished deck but are one board short.

Day 17: Chris, Mike, and Mike worked on demo-ing master bedroom. Cody and I ran to Lowe’s to purchase plants before they are out of stock and 21 bags of topsoil for planter boxes, along with missing deck board. Finished deck. Unloaded soil and sent all workers home at 12:30. Went to Department of Public Works to try to get dumpster. No luck.

Day 18: Demo’d upstairs bathroom. Sealed planter boxes, spread topsoil, and planted plants. Guys worked on clearing backyard and disassembling shed. Laid bluestone path to door. Entire crew has head cold, including me.

Day 19: Got mulch and pea gravel and pavers for front walk. Edged garden bed, planted, and mulched. Continued clearing backyard.

Day 20: Day off. Everyone is sick. Ran errands and started working on restoring front casement windows. Plan to boil hardware overnight.

Day 21: Kodi’s dad came with trailer and we went to dump with demo debris. Edwin brought truck. Got 3 trips in before closing at 2:15. Went to scrapyard with metal—$129. Went back and continued demo-ing interior.

Day 22: Worked on clearing out and gutting basement. Separated salvageable wood from garbage wood, pulled nails from walls studs and ceiling joists. City dump truck coming tomorrow.

Day 23: City dump truck came in morning. Filled twice. Demo’d more of interior and loaded stuff from backyard. Started removing rotted kitchen floor and tin ceiling for paint to be stripped. Plaster ceiling discovered above—will demo tomorrow.

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