Making Your House A Home During Renovations

When renovations are in full swing, sometimes it’s hard to keep your house feeling like a home. With the drywall dust, construction debris, and in our case moving two huge rooms of our house into tiny spaces, it can quickly make you feel like you’re living in a construction zone. This isn’t a fun feeling for anyone, and I assume it’s one of the biggest reasons people get stressed out during renovations. Lord knows a few months ago I had my moment of “what if this process is bad?”. Then, I got over it, pretty quickly. Attitude is everything in life. There are a few key things you can do to help lower your stress levels and keep your house a home when it looks like this:

  1. Plan: As important as it is to plan your actual renovation, planning the space you will be living in during renovations is crucial. Maximize your space so disruption of flow from room to room is kept at a minimum. If you’re renovating your kitchen, you can cook dinners ahead of time that you can easily heat up in a microwave. Think of moving your fridge to another location so you can still store food. Keep things in place for as long as you can, but have a plan so when it does come time to move them it’s not stressful. If you’re doing a bathroom it’s a little more tricky but can you try and plan it so you have at least the toilet and shower back up and running in one day? We’re moving our bathroom to an entirely different room, so we’ll finish the new bathroom before we tear out the old.
  2. Phase Construction: Don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you take a hammer to every wall “just to see” what’s behind it, you’re going to leave a lot of dust in your path. Every time you look up you’ll see that hole in the wall and be reminded you need to fix it. One room, one project, at a time. Not only does this help you focus on the task at hand, it’s also helps in case you can’t finish the other phases as planned. The last thing you want is to run out of money, time or help and be reminded of it because you’ve ripped apart every room in the house.
  3. Get Creative and Be Flexible: Yes, it would be great if we all had the budget to afford whatever it is we wanted to do during renovations, but be realistic. You might have to get creative to make some of the things happen that you want. It may also be about picking the most important things and scrimping for them. Do you want lunch with the girls/guys, or do you want a marble counter for your bathroom sink? This goes in hand with being flexible. Sometimes walls just can’t be opened as much as you thought because it would be too expensive for the added structural support.
  4. Stay Within Your Budget: You’re probably thinking “duh” but honestly, when you’re caught up in it and you’ve already spent a bunch of money you might say “what’s a few more thousand?” That’s only a question you can answer, but be careful-it’s a slippery slope. You will be much happier in the end if you don’t have looming loans over your head, just so you could have a bunch of minor details. If you’re stressed after it’s all over, you’ll be too consumed with it to even notice or truly appreciate them. All you’ll see is the debt you’ve incurred. Be smart about it, get creative when you need to in order to attain the things you want, and be flexible. A blown budget just isn’t worth it.
  5. Don’t Forget Your Routine: Let’s face it, when you’re both working full time (I include stay at home parents in the “full time” category), it’s not easy to find time to renovate. Your schedule will be thrown off – but at least try to maintain some normalcy. For Andy and I, we make our dinner and sit on the porch. I do laundry, brush the dogs, take them for walks, play with them, weed the garden, etc. We aren’t letting our lives fall by the wayside just because we’re renovating-it’s just a new part of our lives. This often means Andy is doing a lot of the renovations, while I’m helping to keep the rest of the house running. Dinners are a little less prepared than they used to be, but we aren’t eating out. If you have kids, keeping some routine will help them a lot (and everyone) with the transition.
  6. Keep A Clean Job Site: This is one Andy stressed hugely to me. Messy job sites are the sign of a sloppy job. At the end of the day, no matter how tired you are, do a quick pick up. You will find yourself way less stressed if you don’t have to see everything everywhere when you want to get work done. This includes putting your tools back in a designated spot when you’re done for the day.
  7. Keep A Clean House: Just like a clean job site, a clean living area during renovations is extremely important. You’ll feel like you’re in your home – even if it feels like your home crammed into a tiny box. In our case, because all of our belongings are in a very small area now, it’s incredibly important to stay on top of any messes. With our bedroom being 8×8 it means clothes get put away immediately. No baskets of clothing sits around waiting to be put away. Small spaces force you to be more conscious of not only what you have, but how cluttered it can get. Keep it to a minimum. If you have to, do a once a day clean sweep through the house to pick up any odds and ends. You’d be surprised how good it feels just to keep your floors vacuumed, your laundry put away and your coffee table picked up.
  8. Remember The Little Things: I love having fresh flowers in my house during the summer. To keep our house feeling like a home, I’ve been picking wild flowers and keeping them in a case next to our bed. Not only do they last longer than anything store bought, and are free – but they are significantly more beautiful and diverse. Whatever the little things are that make you feel like a cup of tea and happy, then do them still if you can.

When you’re done, it will be so worth it and even more so if you aren’t fighting the entire time. These are tips we are using in our own renovation, and I hope will help you get through yours. It’s a new and exciting time in your life – embrace it and have fun.



The Most Beautiful Site In The World

I refuse to believe there is a more beautiful site, meaning jobsite, in the world right now. Yep, I’m willing to throw out the entire geographic area of the world. Why? I finally get to share with you the second floor before and after demolition shots. The same room that had been our bedroom for the last five years. Keep in mind this room is about 22×16. Yep, it’s huge.

This is the side facing the road. The crib was something my Pepere made for me when I was 5 and the two stuffed bears I’ve had since I was a baby. I’m saving them for our future kids (no mom, gram, dad, any other family reading this I am not pregnant).

This is the side facing the hayfield and towards the new addition. Behind the tall wall of unpainted boards is another nook we used for clothes.

As you can see, it’s pretty stellar with the no door / paneling / not a real closet / gross plywood floor. You know what looks even more stellar? When I start ripping boards off the walls. I have never enjoyed demoing something so much in my entire life. First came down the half wall…board by board. There was some pretty interesting structure holding it up including a piece of welded metal holding it together. See that block of long boards on the floor with the dark base on the bottom? That’s the metal. It’s pretty indicative of the guy’s “handy work” who built this addition. Anytime we see it, or something is weird, we refer to him and call it “Lestered”. I.e. “Uh oh, I just found something all Lestered up” or “Son of a Lester!” Sorry to any of Lester’s children who may perchance stumble across this blog. At least he built things to last, there’s no doubt about that.

Once we had all the boards off I managed to pull the entire framing down with my hands. My hands. It definitely took some force, but the fact is that I still ripped it down with nothing more than these two palms and adjoining fingers.

It was at about this point Andy walked upstairs with the maul (also lovingly known as the “wood splittah”) to take out the tall boards above the stairs. Sometimes all you need is brute force.

Then came taking out the platform above the stairs, so we can eventually put in a switchback staircase.

Once Andy got started there was no going back. During this time I was pulling nails from all of the boards and stacking them.

Showcase showdown between Andy and the final boards. He noticed these after some drywall and insulation removal and wasted no time taking them down.

The boards didn’t even stand a chance. Here’s a shot of the bedroom once all the boards were gone, and a little more. Primrose was loving the renovations. I’m not even kidding. Through tons of loud noises, she was with us almost the entire time. Winnie was laying on our bed downstairs pretty much as far away from us as she could get, not scared, but just entirely uninterested.

Since we’re keeping the boards for future use on another project it was important to make sure we stacked them and saved them all. Piece by piece we hauled them out the second floor slider and loaded them onto the Mahindra.

With lumber out of the way it was time to focus on the drywall. Andy took the lead on this and taught me how to properly remove drywall. You know those shows where an entire house is renovated in 30 minutes? I watch them too, but I was always baffled why they would slam their hammer all over the drywall to remove it. As it turns out that’s really not how you’re suppose to do it, but I guess it makes good TV.

Drywall tip time: Don’t smash it into a hundred pieces. Why? You’ll have to pick them all up! And holy cow would it create a lot of dust. Dust that you should really try to contain. When you want to remove drywall, cut/hit with a hammer where you have to in order to get underneath of an edge/side, etc. Try and go where the drywall tape is if you can see it. Then gently and carefully start shimmying and wiggling the drywall. You may not get the entire piece out, but you’ll get a lot larger pieces that will be significantly easier to clean up. When you’re done your pieces should look more like this and less like rubble.

It was getting later in the afternoon, but we weren’t done yet. With night only a few hours away we started pulling the insulation out for the dumpster. This stuff is no joke. The reason they tell you to wear gloves when you handle it is because the fibers are glass hence fiberglass. It itches because of the micro-cuts it can cause on skin and it’s incredibly irritating. Not only should you wear gloves but it would be a good idea to keep a protective mask on as well as eye protection and long sleeves, since the fibers get air born easy. I learned the mask part the hard way, and I ended up coughing a lot. Bad news

Fiberglass Insulation Tip: You’ll likely find this insulation between your studs whether on the wall or in the ceiling. To reduce the fiberglass becoming air born during removal, push the insulation in near the top of the wall. Instead of pulling straight out, slowly roll the insulation towards the wall. This will keep the paper on the outside and the fiberglass tucked inside the roll, greatly reducing the effects.

On Sunday night we stopped while the drywall and insulation were out but the ceiling was still up. The sun was set and it was too dark to keep going so we cleaned up. Earlier this week Andy was right back at it and he took the ceiling down (and smashed my radio in the process – it was rather funny).

In the end, this is the final shot of the second floor interior demolition (the hanging piece of drywall is gone now). I’ve never seen it look more beautiful. So you don’t have to scroll back up, here’s the before and afters again. Excuse me while I wipe a tear from my eye.

We are OFFICIALLY done with interior demolition in the old addition. This means in just a short time walls will be coming down while new walls are framed up.

I wish I could give you step by step instructions on how to do every single step, but since I can’t I promise to try and put in a post here or there with specific instructions and/or tips, like above, in these broader posts. While crafting is my thing and I can definitely give step by step tips, renovations are not.

We have an interesting dynamic here in the house where Andy is a professional, and I am a DIY newbie more or less. My mom made sure we knew how to use tools, which means I at least know basics. Even though over the years I’ve learned quite a bit from watching Andy, with this renovation it’s like I’ve been hit upside the head with the nerf gun of knowledge. I can’t wait to see what else I learn in the next couple months. Whatever it is, I’ll share.

You have my promise.



Psst – Just a quick note: my twitter handle has changed from @homesteadandtea to @lkacupoftea.

I Didn’t Want To Listen To the Radio Anyway. So There. {And Other Random Bits}


Andy: “Did you want me to bring that radio down for you still?”

Me: “It’s okay, I’m trying to update my resume and what not (the “what not” being writing blog posts, reading blogs, and social media)”

Andy: “That’s good then.”

Me: “Why?”

Andy: “Well, I brought it to you but…

At this point Andy held out his hands with my $10.00 radio that has so lovingly been with me for a number of years, faithfully broadcasting MPBN every night while I cook dinner and on the weekends, looking more like it got in a street brawl with a bus than a radio.

Me: *laughing* “Did you hit it with the wood splitter!?”

Andy: *sheepish* “No, a piece of drywall fell on it….and smashed it into a hundred pieces”

At least the upstairs looks a little more like this now.

Twitter You Son Of A {you know}:

Have I told you I’m on Twitter now? Your life is complete and you’re welcome. You can find me at Wait, why not likeacupoftea as my handle? Some lady has it. And it’s set to private so I can’t even ask her if I can have it. So if you’re that lady, I’ll give you a cookie if you give it to me. Until then LkACupOfTea it is. No, that does not stand for Lick A Cup of Tea, though I suppose you could if you really felt the need.


Andy sent me this and it made me laugh. I don’t know where it’s from {sorry}, but if you do, let me know so I can give the person credit. Credit for being hilarious. My dogs would not put up with that for even a second. How I wish they would though. It might have ended up as my background desktop for a while. Maybe.




Psst – I have an upstairs demo post to share with you. It’s a good thing I held off because as of last night we no longer have a ceiling. Must add that part in.

Soffit Squirrels

Early Sunday morning the boys were back at it after spending a long day installing the joists, insulation and subfloor for the new addition. With the new floor in place it was time to focus on pulling the siding off the house for some exploratory work. The probability of uncovering something wrong was pretty high. The probability of finding a mouse nest was pretty much guaranteed.

I have to admit, we were all laughing slash gagging when we took the soffit down because what we found was a lot bigger than a mouse nest. Andy definitely took one for the team. Nothing like a little squirrel nest dust in your face in the AM. Ahh that fresh country air never gets old.

I have to give the squirrel props for it’s hard work. That was one heck-of-a nest.

Once the squirrel nest and other debris those sneaky buggers pulled into the soffit was gone, Andy pulled off the siding  to see what kind of structure he was working with. Let’s take a closer look between the top of the window and the plywood. High quality insulation people. High. Quality.

Once the walls were opened up to the studs it was no surprise our insulation was about an inch thick – uncompressed. It was about on-par with what Andy expected to find, but it made it no less funny and ridiculous.

This photo shows the, honest to God, thickness of most of the insulation. Wearing sweatshirts and sweatpants and slippers and hats while we had the wood stove going with dry oak on a freezing winter day all makes so much sense now.

Andy decided to keep opening up the house even further to check out more structural items, while I kept staring with a gaping mouth laughing at the insulation. From Andy’s perspective it wasn’t unexpected. From my perspective I found it funny because even someone as technically unsound as me is well aware how terrible it was.

Right about where Andy is standing in the above photo is where we are putting in a large opening from the livingroom to the kitchen/dining area. We’ll need to restructure this side of the house for both the opening and to properly tie in the second floor of the addition.

The house is still open on that side to about the same degree while they decide how to restructure it, but first we had to get the second floor of the old addition taken care of. I’ll post more about it tomorrow, but for now here’s a sneak peak.

The wood splittah gets it done. Who says you need a power tool when you have brute force?





In Addition, I’m Joist So Happy.

And the blog post title takes first place in the lameathon!

Last year we finally finished the foundation to our addition and it was hands down one of the happiest moments this house has ever seen. Okay, and maybe me too.

This year it’s even more exciting because we’re actually building our addition! The boys, with their officially genetically altered mutant ox DNA, are building this addition faster than I ever could have imagined. It was made even better by coming home to see this in my driveway on Friday.

Getting to this point  definitely required some prep work in the last week. We removed some of the siding to explore what was really there (you never know what you’ll find in this house) and also so we could apply the ledger boards.

We didn’t find anything too shocking, but we did find where the old family carved their names into the insulation, including some measurements.

One of the things Andy noticed was how not-true the house and especially the old addition are. Once he marked out where the ledger boards should go, and we made a chalk line it was even more apparent. Thankfully his work will true everything up.

With the marks all set, the ledger boards were installed. These are not pressure treated lumber. Even though they are exterior as of this very moment, they will be interior and not exposed to the elements.

Once the joists were up and we cleaned the area out a little, it looked a little more like this.

We moved the old stairs out of the way (now in the front right of the photo above) so we could rake up the area and remove a small pad of asphalt the previous owners poured.

Next up came the vapor barrier. Andy got it for free and it happened to be just a few feet larger than we needed it. Lucky day? You bet. It also proved how undeniably weak I am. That thing was heavy.

Once we got it into place in all four corners, I was instructed to “stand there” so it could be pulled tight into the other two corners. I am so useful. Oh and yes, that is what I wear to work in when it’s so hot and humid you’re almost breathing liquid. I wasn’t thinking about it when I asked Casey to take photos of the process. C’est la vie.

The final “prep” was to tape up the vapor barrier on the insulation sides, and seal it down with adhesive on the house sides. The tape is red and is specifically for construction seams, i.e. vapor barriers.

With the prep work complete, it was time to install the joist hangers and get a floor installed. On Saturday morning the boys woke up early and got right into it. The reason the vapor barrier is so dirty in comparison to the photo above is because it rained pretty heavy on Friday night, and washed dirt from the roof into it.

When the joists were installed, Andy placed a board across the top of them and secured it in order to keep the joists from bowing while insulation was installed and before the bracing went in.

All day the radio kept stopping for the emergency signal saying there were flash flood and thunderstorm warnings but the sky showed bright blue. The subfloor got closer to complete and the sky started slowly getting cloudier and cloudier. There’s one small row left to be done in the photo below, despite it looking complete. It’s just the angle.

Right as Casey laid the very last piece of subfloor I announced I felt a rain drop on my back.

Within 30 seconds it was downpouring, and we had just finished for the day. We ran around to get things covered, power tools put in the house and decided to call it a night. I’m happy to say I’m finally caught back up on our progress, so all posts from here on out should be within a day or two of when we’ve done something. I am pretty excited about the progress we got done today, and I can’t wait to show you, but for now it’s bedtime.