Wednesday Renovation Recap: So Many Stair Parts

Hey, friends! I have something to tell you before I delve into this renovation update. Here it goes.

I, Heather, am totally into the now-cancelled show Ready For Love. There, I said it. I’ve been watching the season on-demand since it’s been cancelled. I don’t even care that it’s like a jacked up version of the Bachelor without any roses, plus three bachelors and dating coaches. I also think the Rancic’s are a totally cute couple even though I literally know nothing about them outside an interview I saw and the fact I watched about four episodes of their reality show in a row one time. To be blunt, this show just makes me inexplicably happy due to the love factor and the hilarious awkward laugh factor. So the lesson is this, don’t question what makes you happy, even if it’s awesomely bad TV. I sort of wish it was going to have a second season.

Whew! I am so glad I got that off my chest. With that said, let’s get into the renovations! As you know we finished the living room and we’ve pretty much just been enjoying it since, with little work on the rest of the house. That doesn’t mean we’ve been sitting around though. We’ve been working on the garden (update to come next week!) as well. With all of the enjoying and planting going on it doesn’t mean we can stop working on the house for too long. With that said, we need to get these darn stair parts finished and out of the master bedroom so we can lay flooring and move up there already!

DSC_3923-01Over the last couple weeks or so I finished up the stair treads and finally was able to take them off the scaffolding and move them aside so I could start the balusters, trim and a few other boards.

DSC_3930-01Once the stair parts were moved out of the way, I used the scaffolding to set up all the other parts. You never quite realize how many stair parts there are until you’re prepping them all!

DSC_3943-01I think total, between the balusters, trim, risers and other wood parts Andy asked me to take care of, there were over 50 parts I was priming. Yep, you read right, priming. Believe it or not we do paint wood, just very selectively. All of this wood is poplar which was both free for us (sawed from our woods),  but it’s not exactly the best wood to seal and let the natural shine through. I actually asked Andy to keep them natural but he really wanted them white. Truthfully, I’m okay either way. I’ve learned that Andy’s ideas are often beautiful. While he’s almost always against painting wood, he absolutely loves contrasting staircases that allow gorgeous wood to shine. By painting the “meh” poplar white, we will be able to showcase the walnut rails and the beech treads. Don’t expect to ever see white trim in our house though, you would be just as shocked as me.

DSC_3946-01With the stair parts finally primed, we’re ready to paint white! While we aren’t there yet, we will be soon. I’ll be picking up basic bright white eggshell paint this week. We’re going eggshell to allow the white parts to “sit back” from the glossy wood we’re trying to accentuate while still allowing the white parts to be easily cleaned. Update: I bought the paint and we’re going with satin since it has a soft sheen to it, and is easier to wipe down than eggshell. After researching it more I realized that eggshell was a pretty bad idea for high-traffic surfaces. We’re not painting the stair parts Dover White like the rest of the main downstairs area simply because it isn’t bright white. We really want it to be a classic white just in case we ever decide to repaint. The Dover White we have from Sherwin-Williams is a beautiful white but it does have a slightly yellow undertone, which we don’t want. It will also be best if we ever decide to change the wall colors, so we’re not left with a staircase with a slightly yellow undertone which could clash dependent on the color we re-paint. We’re certainly not intending to, but it’s a lot easier to repaint a wall than repaint stairs!

Balusters in process!

That’s all for now in the stairs department. With the treads and railings finally done, and all the other parts close, we’re still making progress.

DSC_3925-01Though, I do have to admit, it’s pretty hard to keep progress going when all you want to do is stay outside planting your garden until dusk and then sit in your living room you’ve been waiting years for. On and up though! Next milestone goal: Move into the new master bedroom!



Reclaiming Our Living Room

We’re in the mountains of Maine today reclaiming our sanity, which has given me some time to edit some photos and catch up on some posts. I have to tell you guys how relaxing this is. I’m sitting in a rocking chair, in front of a wood stove, in a stream of sun, with a mug of hot tea. To say this is nice is an understatement. So while we reclaim a sense of balance and relief at being away from renovations for a couple days, let’s talk about our reclaimed southern pine floors we put down in our living room.

Flooring (22)These floors are my dream floors. The beautiful variation, the saw marks—count me in. They are the type of floor you see on Houzz and keep as an inspiration piece. They are floors you look up price wise and, when you’re on a budget like ours, gasp and fall over sideways when you see the cost. They are also the floors which my husband managed to divert from the waste stream.

Because of how this floor is laid, when all is said and done there’s a decent amount of waste. When Andy saw this he realized there was enough to do the floor in our living room, floor the small space in front of the new stairs and maybe, just maybe, build a someday farmers table for our someday porch—and keep these extra pieces out of the dump. So of course, it came home.

It was his first wedding anniversary gift to me and to say I was delighted would be a gross understatement.

We had been keeping this flooring in our barn for months on end, so it was important to bring it into the house to acclimate before we laid it. It was a little more organized than this (the day we started laying it) but more or less there were piles of flooring everywhere. My shins are direct proof of these piles. You would have thought at some point I would have learned to step over or walk around the piles instead of directly into them. Lesson not learned.

Flooring (5)When it came to laying this flooring it definitely took time. Unlike regular flooring, with reclaimed flooring you have to match widths, sometimes you have to fix splines, and in general it can be a little frustrating to line up. To make it easier for us I decided we needed to pile all of the flooring by width so we could easily grab what we needed. The boards ranged from 6″ to 12″ so there was definitely a huge amount of variation. It was much more efficient versus our original layout kind of seen above and below. In other words it was not the most efficient method.

Flooring (13)To start laying the floor we needed to make a border around our concrete hearth. Andy took two of the shorter and narrower width pieces, put a 45 degree angle on each and laid them on either side of the hearth. They were held together in with biscuits and secured to the subfloor with construction adhesive and finish nails through the face (top) of the flooring. One of the advantages of a floor like this is that you either will never notice the finish nails, or they look like part of the original product.

Flooring (4)Laying the first course of flooring was pretty much like any other flooring—start in the center. To do this easily we found the center on each wall with a measuring tape, marked it, and use a chalk line to connect the two center marks.

The next step shows why this flooring takes longer than other types. With most flooring you can grab whatever works and lay it, as they are all the same width. With this type of flooring it was vitally important for us to lay every board for our rows out ahead of time for two reasons:

  • We needed to ensure we had enough of the same width to create the entire row.
  • We needed to ensure the great variations in the wood would look visually appealing when put together. A very clean red piece of wood could either look great, or horrible, next to a darker very marked up piece of wood. In floors like this they don’t need to perfectly match because in the end we wanted a varied look. There were a few times however we swapped pieces out because they just looked wonky.

Once test laid, we had to ensure the butt ends (where the two boards meet up end to end) would sit flush so we cut the ends off to make them square.

Once we had a chalk line on the floor we followed that line with our boards while making sure the flooring was centered, and not to the left or right of the line. To secure this type of flooring we glued it down and biscuit jointed on the the butt ends.

Flooring (3)After the floor is laid and we were sure it was centered, we braced it on one side. We did this with scraps screwed into the subfloor firmly against the non-tongue side (but not so tight it bowed the flooring). This is so when we installed one side we didn’t throw the flooring off kilter from the original straight row. Flooring (11)From here it was a matter of laying everything. Some of the boards weren’t perfect on the edges so they needed to be planed down a little, some needed to be stood on in order for them to slide in easier, and some of them worked perfectly. It was important not only to lay down our rows prior to securing it, but to also test fit the pieces too.

Flooring (6) Flooring (8)With the test fits complete, we banged each piece into place (using a scrap piece of wood, not hitting the actual flooring) and nailed it securely. Andy used his pneumatic flooring nailer, but there are plenty of just fine regular ones too—you just have to hit them harder.

Flooring (10)Once we finished a few courses we removed the blocks we initially secured against the first course and kept on going in the other direction.

Flooring (12)With the easier of the two sides done (to the left of the hearth from the direction in the photo above) it was time to tackle the right side. It wasn’t particularly harder, but it did require just a little more work.

Flooring (14)The first row we laid on this side was the most complex. We had to both secure it to the hearth, and attach it to the original course. To tie into the hearth side, we used the biscuit jointer to pull everything together. The issue was the original course had the groove where we needed a tongue. Why was this a problem? This meant only one thing—a spline.

A spline is a thin piece of wood inserted into the groove of flooring to turn it into a tongue. Since we needed our center board to have two tongues, a spline was the only way to do it. I didn’t get any great picture of a spline, but if you look in the photo above there is a thin piece of wood sitting on the concrete hearth—that’s a spline. They can be bought, but Andy made ours on the table saw with some scrap wood. To put in the spline we glued it into place and then finish nailed, and then set the nails, to secure it and to make sure the nails were flush so the next piece of flooring would actually fit.

After this part I didn’t get many more photos of day one. We were getting to the final courses laid on this side, we were hungry, and we were in the last push for the night.

The next day however, we got up early and started again. Andy’s friend stopped by with his black lab and while they chatted they laid the last course. His buddy is also in construction and builds furniture too so it was great to have him stop in to inject some energy, and help, into the final push.

Flooring (19)When all was said and done, and a day and a half of work later, we had a beautiful floor.

Flooring (20)There was much rejoicing and dancing.

Flooring (21)

We’ve had this floor laid for about a week or so now and it grows on us more and more each day. There was something off though and we weren’t sure what it was until it hit us. The thing with our house is that we’re going to have a lot of different flooring. We’re keeping the oak in the original house, we’ll have beech upstairs as well as beech on the staircase and in the downstairs bedroom, and we have the beautiful reclaimed floors in our living room. When we stepped back we realized the reclaimed floor just wasn’t tying together. It looked great, but we needed it somewhere else so it looked like it was on purpose and not just an after thought. That’s when we realized we had enough to lay in front of the stairs and how well it would bring everything together.

While we are going to finish the staircase first, we laid a few boards and I’m happy to say it totally fixes the balance issue. With the wide living room and the small amount in front of the staircase it looks great together and looks purposeful.

Flooring (1)We’re very happy with the floors so far, and frankly, everything. The house is pulling together so nicely and we love it.

I’ll be back next week with an update of all the little things we’ve been doing including higher-quality photos of the lighting we installed, new lighting we’ve put in since, paint in the staircase and more.

With all that said, I’m checking out and am going to head out into the woods. We’re going to go tap some trees to try and get a little more maple sap before the season is over, cut some wood, and spend the day with family cooking over a fire outside and having fun in the snow.



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: Little Items & Big Windows

Hey friends! This last week in renovation land has been slow and steady. There has been plenty done, but it’s been little items to prep for some big ones. We’re waiting for some materials to show up so we can install the windows, so while we waited we worked on a few other items.  By “we” I mean I did some painting and items around the house, while Andy actually worked on the house. Oh, I also took some photos for you of the house so this won’t be an instagram photo recap like last Wednesday.

First up, can we just discuss what a HUGE difference has been made since we moved in five years ago? I found this picture on my external hard drive and I was all, “ANDY LOOK. There’s a toilet on the porch.” Then I cringed because I remember having to blast that toilet with the power washer when we had to re-floor the bathroom right after moving in.

And from a similar perspective now. Awwww boo yeah.

This photo also shows one of the bigger of the prep items we had to do this weekend before the windows went in. All of those casings around the window openings are not the final casings for the windows. I asked Andy and he let me know these are actually called “wood bucks” not casings. I’m so super knowledgeable about these things *shakes head sarcastically*. These help hold the actual windows in place and will be covered by the window itself.

Wait for it…

Waaaiiitt for it….


Oh boy do I like our windows. These are two over one windows, i.e. two panes over one pane. We debated a three over one look but decided the balance of the house and the view of the field would be better with two over one. These windows are amazing and are easily cleaned by tilting (it’s the little things in life). The green will be what you see on the exterior of the house, and the interior is a basic pine but it’s a nice pine. Once the Vycor (window flashing) comes in we’ll be set to install and it will look like a unicorn party – both magical and unbelievable.

Next up came finishing up the soffit on the addition, trim and paint.

Because the steel roof reflects light so easily, it’s really hard to get a good shot from the road. Instead I took these while up on the original roof, after I finished putting a second coating on some of the trim. Oh, by the way, the paint color is Sage Brush Green if you’re interested.

Oh, and what else is this we started? Some work on the original house? Oh yes, you know we did. You can’t exactly put siding on when the original house is still junk. The entire exterior needs to be in working order, so when I was doing inventory on my soaps the other night I heard a loud BANG BANG BANG *crunch* noise right outside my window. Turns out Andy was pulling the soffit down on the original house.

That tiny window is the window into my office right now. Someday, oh someday, I’ll have a real window in there.

The final part of this weeks renovation update actually happened tonight, so I think it deserved a spot in this weeks breakdown.

Our front door!

I never wrote about it, but earlier this spring when I was in Marthas Vineyard for my friends wedding, Andy went to the Hammond Lumber tent sale up in Belgrade. He came home with some doors, including a beautiful solid douglas fir front door.

The swing of the door was wrong, so Andy took it out of the frame and changed the mounts so it would swing in to the right, instead of to the left.

It’s great knowing that not only are the windows going in soon, but we’ll actually have a front door to the house again. As far as those lanterns from our wedding in the garage? They might just stay there forever.

We’re fancy like that.



And Then There Were The Awesome Parts Of The Weekend

Despite Sunday being a general cluster eff, Saturday was pretty awesome.

For starters, some of my family and I got together to help clean out my Memere and Pepere’s house. While this in and of itself was sad, it was fun going through all of the items again, seeing what was there and being able to take mementos home I can always remember them by.

As it turns out my Memere and I wear the same size shirts, and that lady had good style. I never would have pegged her for it back in the day, but as of now I have about 10 shirts, including two of my Pepere’s cardigans, drying on the line outside. I also have a couple knickknacks they always had around the house like a giant fork and spoon that always hung in the dining room, and the decorative fish mold seen on the wall below.

Then I found her exercise suit amongst a bunch of her fabric. Me being me, I had to put it on, and my cousin being my cousin he had to take photos of which I was a more than willing participant because in our family we love hilarity. I may have texted one of these to my Dad. I’m pretty sure he’s never been more proud. I am definitely doing a squat in the first one, but continue to laugh because I know what it looks like.

Yep, I brought it home, and I intend on wearing it with a skirt because I love the top of it. Also, I may wear it for Halloween. All I knew is that it was not going in the dumpster. Not just yet.

After trying on various items of clothing and sorting through decades of fabric, my other cousin, her husband, and I went to her mom’s house, my Aunt Mary’s (talked about more here) to visit and eat ridiculously tasty food over.

My Aunt carries her food in a basket. She also cooks us tasty salmon. You can thank the Iphone and night-time for a super dark photo but you can get the gist of how delicious it was. If you can’t – well, then, it was delicious.

Okay so this was a great day but I need to show you what was the absolute greatest part of all. When I left the house it looked mostly like this.

In other words, there was no livingroom. Mind you I left the house at 8:30am. I got this text at 7:30pm from Andy.

You can bet I shrieked with joy as I was standing in my Aunts kitchen and then showed everyone. I’m telling. It did not exist while I was gone. And now there are walls. WALLS.

And that my friends, finished off Saturday as a really, really, good day.

That, and some homemade strawberry sorbetto.