Wednesday Weekly Renovation Update: From Concept To Reality

I have lots of photos to show, some huge progress, and a lot of blurry boys in said photos since I had to set the camera up on a tripod with a slow shutter speed to get good exposure of the rooms. Let’s just pretend the boys are blurry because they were working so fast it was hard to catch.

Saturday morning started like most Saturday mornings around here—Winnie standing in my face whining for me to let her out, and then when I say “off”, Rosie jumps off the bed to run to the door and Winnie starts licking my face as if to say, “Human is awake! Human is awake! I have to pee. Oh I have to pee. Let me out. Let me out. Feed me. Human is awake! I love you human! Stick. Ball. Human!”

So like any other Saturday morning, I drag out of bed and let them outside, proceed to fill their bowls with kibble and fall back into bed, grasping for just a few more hours of sleep. Most mornings this is the start of the “get ready for work” routine, but on this Saturday morning I fall back into bed.

After listening to the jingle of their collars hitting their metal bowls, I hear the ominous clicking of nails on the floor and thumping of tails against the wall. With one big *womp* onto the bed, I am promptly jumped on by a dog who wishes to thank me for her morning breakfast by holding a ball in her mouth and pressing her forehead into mine lovingly while making snorting noises. The other dog jumps on the bed and proceeds to roll onto her back squirming. Sleep is not happening, but it’s too cute to stop. Finally everyone settles down, I go back to bed and what feels like 20 minutes later Andy rolls over and says, “ready to get going Beatrice?”

And so begins my day.

I ask him what we’re doing today and he tiredly mumbles “re-framing the stairs” as he drinks in his hot coffee and starts putting on his work gear, which is almost always some form of Carhartt overalls. I’m starting to get nervous about what the stairs will look like, but I trust his judgement to make them fit this house the best they can, it is after all a weird spot.

At this point I have to laugh at how serious and focused on things I get sometimes when Winnie jumps on the bed one more time and stares at me and drops the ball and smiles. Rosie smiles at me too. It looked a little something like this. Same faces, different scenario. I thank them and bury my face into them.

I hear one more time, “time to get up Beatrice!” and I know it’s time to officially start the day. Seriously this time.

I hear the banging of the hammer, the radio turned on and there’s no going back. My day has begun. There’s already debris at the bottom of the stairs.

By the time I’ve thrown my sweatshirt and jeans on to help pull nails, which is pretty much my official job of this renovation, part of the landing has already been removed. We’re making switchback stairs, so this whole section of the ceiling has to be taken down and re-framed.

The dogs run upstairs to say hello to Andy, but when Winnie realizes the top tread is missing she starts whining because she doesn’t know how to get back down the stairs. Rosie jumps right over it, but Winnie is a little uncertain about things. Andy does the only thing a good Dad would do, and picks her up and carries her back down the stairs with her acting like a big baby the entire time, and us laughing.

With the dog rescue complete, it was time for Andy to smash out those timbers.

Casey comes home from an unsuccessful first day of deer hunting for a break and Andy puts him right to work on helping take the beams down. His buddy Chris is at the house too and the dogs go nuts over him. We pretty much just all start making fun of each other and laughing.

While taking the posts down it causes cracks in the drywall, just this side of the addition. I hear “we might as well take it all down” and that was that. I’m taking a way to long video of the removal process and eventually Andy tells Casey, whom I’ve handed it off to, to stop the video. He’s trying to figure something out and having the video on him is distracting. I stop while he figures it out and start it back up again. I know he loves looking back on these things, so I make sure to document them in multiple ways.

I’m pretty relieved as the ugly thick wood “trim” (timbers) ,which had been up for the last five years, come down.Off came the boards to the wall to reveal…black paint. Black. Paint. I won’t even go there except to say it’s never seeing the light of day in this house again.

Taking this wall down has been my favorite part of the renovation to date. We were able to take out the grossly oversized massive humungous window as well as the original exterior door. To say I will miss them would be a blatant lie.

Before the door came out, they initially decided to take the drywall down between the two. When Andy was banging on the drywall though to take it out, without disturbing the electrical, an arch shot out of the front of the wall from the switch. I was in the room but I missed it, and Andy was on the opposite side of the wall. Casey and his friend yelled “WOAH WOAH” and explained what happened. We knew 100% the electrical wasn’t bad, so it only took a second to see what the issue was.

At some point in time, when the original boards were up (where the black meets the white) things could slip behind it. Apparently a penny fell behind it, wedged itself and as Andy banged on the wall behind the switch, it shifted the penny just enough to cause a connection. The odds were astronomical something like that would happen and it was crazy. This is why you need to be careful about exposed metals touching, especially something as conductive as copper. Poor old Abe suffered some serious flesh wounds.

I pried it out with a piece of wood (remember, metal and humans are both conductive), and they got back to taking the door off.

So close!

Bit by bit the wall slowly went from open concept to open reality. I was both excited and nervous. I remember how the house was, but I was seeing the house my children would remember and only know.  Sometimes the fact that only Andy and I really know what the “before” house looks like feels like a little secret for just the two of us, and I like it. It’s obviously something I’m sharing, and not a secret, but I like that the before house was our before kids house, and the new house will be the after kids house. No, I’m not pregnant, but when we do have kids, this is the house they will know.

Thar she blows! This angle is from the kitchen area. I really really love how open it is. Here are shots from a few more angles.

Between the two rooms being entirely torn apart, it was starting to look a little hairy in the house. I really loved it though.

The guy who built the original addition built things to last. The staircase landing was no different.  The photo below is Andy literally jumping on it and springing up and down like a trampoline. Then I got on it and tried. Then he did it again. He finally got it out, but wowza, that baby was in there.

Fast forward a little bit, and well into the evening, I grabbed a quick family picture while it was all still open. I swear Andy has a slight smirk on his face, but I was being a little “please please family photo please please please now please please now please.” So, you know, he obliged. Such a good guy and totally not because I furrowed my brow when he initially said he wanted to keep working.

Family photo over, Andy got back to framing up the landing. I’m not sure why the above photo looks like night, and the one below looks like day, because the family photo was taken just as the sun was setting. Weird.

Right before he framed up the new landing, the boys removed some of the old drywall from around the chimney. The people before us were apparently very patriotic. I laughed when I saw this simply because I had totally forgotten about it. When we moved in just over five years ago it was the main background behind an ugly hearth we took down. It had long been removed and put out of memory, so to see a bit of it again was a fun reminder of how far we’ve already come.

I was really looking forward to seeing the new stair layout. I have to admit they didn’t grow on me right away, but I’m also someone who new things need to grow on. Rarely will I proclaim I “love” something without time. Then again, it doesn’t take too much time. A few days later and I already love them and the new layout. It really opens everything up and will let so much more light in. With the new mid-way landing up for the switch back stairs, Andy hand cut (er, made, but with power tools) the douglas fir stringers.

Finally, the base to the treads went on, which right now are plywood but the plan is to use solid beech for the staircase. After a long long day of work, we cleaned up. I stood back and then ran up and down the stairs multiple times laughing. I can just picture our kids running up and down them someday.

One of the things we realized was how much space underneath of the stairs there is, and how in a house like this we really need to utilize every nook and cranny. I was trying to figure out if we should put drawers under there, or use it as a storage spot since we don’t have an attic. Then we thought about making the access from the left side, which will be in the lower bedroom. Then Andy came up with it – a dog kennel! It’s not set in stone, but we’re seriously debating doing a built in dog kennel large enough for both dogs. It will give them a nice place to get away, without us having a large crate out in the open and will be pretty cute built in. Down the line if we want to it would be super simple to change into a built in storage area. So far I’m loving the idea, but who knows where we’ll end.

For now, the open concept is finally an open reality. We still have a few more walls to take down but I think we’ll just finish what we started here first before moving on. You know, mostly at least. I just can’t believe Andy, with a little help from Casey, did all of that work in one day.

Who am I kidding, I’ve lived with him long enough to not be shocked by it. Even as I write this he’s working some more. A man building his family a home, is there anything more attractive? I think not.



Wednesday Renovation Recap: Getting Roofed

Wednesday renovation recap in of the houuuussee. In this segment of things we did this week on the house, we’re showing roofing installation, mainly though Instagram photos. Why? Because I didn’t charge my nice cameras battery. Instagram & iPhone photos it is! I know Instagram is all retro, but all of this progress happened over the last week anyway, so that makes it kind of retro, right? No? It doesn’t? Nonsense!

If you’ve already seen all of these then you, my friend, are awesome. Thank you for following me. If you have not seen any of these yet then you, my other friend, are still awesome because you’re here now.

First up, I would like to prove I was not totally full of BS when I said we had to get the renovations done before it got cold out, and that is why I wasn’t writing so much. Proof!

Yep those are leaves that are not green, and they are on the ground.  This is late August, and there are already a plethora of leaves of colors out and about. We’re just over a week from September and that makes us pull at our collar a little bit and go “eeeeeeehhhkk”. This beautiful summerish weekend however involved the installation of steel roofing! While the roofing sat on the ground, the boys worked on getting the insulation and strapping put up first. Details Details.

Or, I could just show you this video I made on my new iPhone 4 this weekend. Yeah people, I just got the iPhone 4. I am moving up in the world. In related news, I joined Facebook a year after all of my friends and just got on Twitter in June. High-five.

I wasn’t planning to move on but perhaps I smashed my much loved 3GS in the hood of my car. Can I just take a moment to say that first off, I had no idea the hood of my car could bounce like that. Second, I would like to say my phone still managed to sync up to my computer after being smashed by the hood of my car. Thank you iPhone. You served me well. Rest in peace. This 4 though? Video, people, VIDEO. This brings in an entire new era of annoying videos to terrible programmed iPhone iMovie music. Yes. High-Fives again! Let’s play the let’s be honest game. If I’m being honest, and I am, I have no idea what the heck I was doing but I do know this is rather terrible. Or awesome. Or terribly awesome.

I literally cannot listen to that music one more time. So let’s just stick with photos.

The hole in the roof is for a chimney. From the road I thought it was a tiny skylight and I was utterly concerned. Thankfully my quick processing skills analyzed the situation and decided my initial conclusion was wrong, and it was indeed for the chimney. By “quick processing skills” I mean, seeing it from the road, walking up to the house, staring, climbing up on the roof and then looking. Okay, self-deprecation aside I knew it wasn’t a skylight from the ground after a second, but I didn’t know what it was for until the roof. I momentarily forgot we had the chimney there for the basement still, because in my head the main chimney was already somewhere else (thought it hasn’t been constructed yet).

The roofing was up next, and man oh man does this make a HUGE different! I can’t even explain. So uh, I won’t, I’ll just show photos. I really wanted to show you the entire house roofed in full, but don’t have a good shot of it so you’ll have to settle for the second to last for now. Plus, we still need roofing on the porch. Like Reading Rainbow, use your imagination.

All in all, the new steel roof really ties in with the original houses’ steel roof and for the first time the the addition and original house are really starting to look cohesive. I can see each day how much more they go together and what the house will potentially look like (from the outside). This next week should include some window installation, insulation and who knows what else! Until next week, stay awesome.



Friday Freebie: Good Food Kitchen Art

Having a hearty meal with family and friends, filled with laughter, is something I equate with love. Some of my favorite memories in my life have been with family or friends surrounding a table, in someones kitchen. There is truly not much more in life one needs than good food, laughter, and love—at least in my book.

I also love designing digital art. I don’t have money for custom art, and I want pieces that mean something to me. What this means is I typically need to do it myself. I’m not an artist, and I’m certainly not a graphic designer, just like I’m not a photographer. That said, I love creating whether it’s with my hands making homemade pasta, through a computer or with my camera.

With the renovations underway, the “design and decor” section of this blog has all but been ignored. No more though! Over the next few months, until I have time to regularly add to it, I’m going to be putting up some free digital art for you guys.

Today’s free digital art is kitchen art, and it was inspired by what I want people to know about my home when they enter. To me the kitchen is the heart of the home, and from my own experience good people and good food build bonds. I hope you love this as much as I do.

To download the art, click on the link below. It’s an 8.5×11 (regular paper size) PDF, so it may take a moment to open for you. You can either print right from the PDF, or save the PDF to your desktop to print at a later time.

In This Kitchen There Shall Be Good Food – Download

If you want a different color head on over to Etsy where I have an option to customize these. I have a variety of colors you can choose from for the background, and you’ll also get a much higher-res file meaning you can print larger than 8.5×11 without distortion.

Here’s to good food, love, and laughter.



Salvaging The Budget

It’s really easy to go off budget with renovations, and with a husband that can build anything I sometimes have to remind myself that just because he can build anything doesn’t mean that he has either time to, or that we have the budget to. It’s extremely important for us to stay on budget. I figured I should do a post about our budget, and about how we’re staying in line with it so far.

There are four big things we’re doing to keep ourselves on budget.

1. We are paying for this entire renovation ourselves with no financing. We are not rich by any means of the word, it’s taken a lot of work on our part to put our money where our mouth is. Not eat it, save it. I’m not being literal because that would just be straight up wasteful. Our budget is well under $20g for the entire house including the new deck, addition, porch, complete gut and re-layout of the original house, finishes (millwork, trim, casings, etc.) and appliances.

2. We are taking it one project at a time. We do not have all of the money we’ll need for everything at this point but we continue to save. We saved enough to do the addition and porch. Our hope is to get the area to a complete-enough place so we can move into it. It won’t be painted/decorated, etc most likely right away. We may not even have a solid wood floor in our bedroom for a while. Taking it slow.

3. We’re doing the work ourselves. I understand that not everyone can, or should, do this level of a renovation themselves. We’re fortunate enough that Andy was raised in a very hands-on environment where he was taught these things from a very young age. Doing the work ourselves will save an exorbitant amount of money.

4. Salvage salvage salvage. We’re no strangers to salvaging considering Andy built most of our current barn with the plywood and pieces from our old barn. At work, if a client has a nice piece of furniture they want to get rid of you can bet they often call Andy first. Salvaging everything we can simply saves a lot of money. If the insulation is good, salvage it. Plywood still good? You bet I’m pulling all the nails out sheet by sheet so we can either re-use it on the addition, or another project down the line. Those $15-20 dollars here and there add up. We most definitely aren’t afraid of a little extra work when it will save us a lot of money. When we pick up nails with the magnet, if I find one that is perfectly straight I set it aside. Now, I’m not sitting there inspecting every nail but if I happen to catch it, I’ll grab it.

Andy is very good with budgets and as a builder he really understands the process from negotiations on product cost, to the technical execution of the actual building process.  I won’t lie and say his knowledge and know-how doesn’t help, it most definitely does. We do get some of our materials at a discount but truth be told, not by much. Salvaging materials and doing the work ourselves is the biggest help of all for our budget.

For me, the hard part for budget will be further down the line when it’s time to do the interior design. This isn’t part of our overall budget, it’s something we’ll save for separately (new couch, rugs, new mattress, etc.). It’s going to take a lot of ingenuity and creativity on my part to pull off the looks I love. If you follow me on Pinterest (link in the upper right corner of the side bar under “P”) you can tell that I have a fairly specific taste. I’m looking forward to the challenge of how to execute an updated farmhouse/cottage interior. You can bet there will be plenty of flea markets in my future and lots of crafts.

If we continue to follow a simple rule we learned in elementary school we should be just fine: “reduce, reuse, recycle”. Whether it’s saving money for the project, with actual building materials, or finding/making a specific decor item I’m pining for we can just reduce to save money for it, reuse what we have, or recycle another items to stand in for it (or to barter for the item you want!).

Salvaging our budget all comes down to one overarching principal: this project really is a true “DIY” adventure, but that’s what makes it so much fun. Why let someone else do it, when you can do it yourself?



You Can’t Resist It, It’s Electric {Boogie Woogie Woogie}

You didn’t think I was going to write a post on electrical without the electric slide being involved, did you?

Man, I really should have had the band learn it for our wedding. A live version of the Electric Slide by a Canadian band? I totally missed the boat on that one.

Regrets aside, I didn’t realize Andy was working on removing the electrical in the addition until I tried to make toast. For some reason, shutting off the electricity for the addition seemed to shut off one outlet in the kitchen too. My guess is Andy also flipped one for the kitchen for some reason, not that they were actually connected. As it turns out my toaster does not work when there’s no electricity. I simply moved my toaster, but it teed me off to something going on upstairs. You know, that and all the banging. As I went upstairs Andy had finished unhooking a good portion of the wiring, but there were still a few things left.

Like taking out the weird light that we were both relieved to see gone. Never again. Out of here.

With that said, let me point out how to not wire your house.

We ended up finding a hot wire in behind one of our walls, uncapped, and dangling above our insulation. Holy fire hazard batman. As you all know, electrical is pretty serious. As well, much of our electric in the upper addition wasn’t tacked properly. It was hanging loose inside the walls. Electrical should always be secured, but not so tight you could cause tears in the sheathing because of friction.

Above the stairs, where we could never reach, was always an open box. It’s been there for the almost-five years we’ve lived here, and I’m sure it’s been there since the original addition went up. It was way high above the stairs so we could never reach it, but surprise surprise – it was hot. The entire time, the wires (uncapped) sticking out of it were live.

To help you out, here are a few tips for removing/handling the electrical in your house. This list is not comprehensive. Make sure you know what you’re doing and how to properly use the inexpensive equipment listed below. I made this list without Andy. What that means is most of this is common sense.

Things To Think About Before Tackling Electrical Work

  • Know-how: Don’t mess with electrical if you don’t know what you’re doing. Volts of electricity are nothing to mess with, unless you like that six feet underground not breathing thing. If you don’t know about electrical, don’t. It’s not something you should just DIY because it looks easy on tv. When in doubt, consult with an electrician. They might even be able to tell you how to do it if you’re intent on DIY.
  • Breaker, Breaker: Shut the power off! Don’t ever mess with electrical when it’s live. Those breakers are there for a reason, to save you from the shock of your life. When in doubt, shut it off. Don’t worry about resetting your clock. It’s better than someone trying to reset your heart.
  • Multimeters are your friend: Multimeters check the voltage on a wire/outlet, etc. Not only are they affordable, they are extremely useful and can help you troubleshoot electrical problems. Obviously you can’t turn off the electrical before you use one of these, but they may help narrow down your issue quicker.
  • AC Current detector: Unlike a multimeter, this simple stick (it kind of looks like a superhuman pregnancy test stick, let’s be honest) is used to tell whether you have a hot wire or not. Make sure those wires really are dead/shut off before you go messing with them. On that note, use it once you turn electricity back on to make everything is in working order too. You do not need to sheath the wires before using this, just touch it with the detector.
  • Check with your county / town code: There are a lot of codes when it comes to electrical, besides building codes. Your county or town may have codes that say you must hire a professional for work of a certain caliber. You may even need an electrical permit.
  • Don’t skimp: Don’t skimp just because you think it’s okay and it will be hidden. For that exact reason, that it will be hidden, you want it done right the first time. Not only will you be limiting your fire hazards but you won’t be ripping down drywall later on when oops, your junction box isn’t accessible or wires aren’t tacked down properly, or worst.

With all of the electrical removed out of the addition now, it’s pretty close to be lobbed off so the new roof line can go on. In fact, some of the roofing itself has already come off, which means the barn has received a little update which I’ll share soon. Back to editing photos!