12.31.2009

Christmas Warmth

So Mother Nature got in on our gift exchange this year. She gave us rain on Christmas day, melting all the snow at the house. We happily parted with hopes for a white Christmas because we hadn't finished the outside work before the first snowfall! The day after Christmas was unusually warm, and we were able to squeeze in one last outdoor clean-up before spring.
Task #1: Cut down two dying trees in the front yard. Four hours working, three men grunting, two saws buzzing, and the partridge lost its pear tree to our new stack of firewood. (In the photo below: Amateur tree removal. Matt's dad wedged his chainsaw into the tree, so Matt had to cut it out with his sawzall, while his dad and my brother did their best to direct the fall of the tree.)
Tasks #2, 3, 4, 5, 6: Raking, raking, raking, raking, raking. Our back patio had not been raked all season. It was a three-layered cake of wet leaves, as was the stone walkway that meanders up the hill in our back yard. Twelve bags of leaves, eleven people raking, ten neighbors watching . . . you get the idea . . .
Inside, my dad and Matt spent the day preparing the walls and ceiling in our master bedroom for painting, which turned out to be much more work than we had anticipated. The alternative was to "laminate" the ceiling with quarter-inch drywall, creating a new, smooth ceiling. They opted to scrape, sand and repair because the radiant heat on that level of the house consists of a maze of copper pipes in the ceiling, and fastening drywall to it presented more challenges than we were willing to face. It doesn't look so bad in this photo, but there is a layer of paint and wallpaper residue that won't entirely scrape off, yet seems to peel itself more and more every day.
My mom's great feat of the day was cleaning the floor-to-ceiling windows that surround our first floor living space. We didn't realize how much the layers of filth and cobwebs obstructed our view until they were clean! What a difference!
Another weekend of excellent help!

12.23.2009

The Wish List

While we continue to prep walls and wrap up the electrical work, Matt and I have been assembling our furniture wish list for the house. So far the list consists of a dining room table and chairs, stools for the bar we are building (more info to come), and a credenza for the television. Finding the right credenza will be tricky because it will be placed against the stone fireplace wall, a main focal point of the house that we'd rather not hide with a television.

Fortunately, we caught some inspiration while flipping through Interior Design magazine. We came across Domus Design Collection's Cube Motorized TV Cabinet--a brilliant solution for our situation because the TV can be hidden inside the cabinet while not in use, and the motorized lift allows the whole unit to maintain a low profile.
Domus' designs are guided by Leonardo DaVinci's slogan, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." While the Cube cabinet would look amazing next to our fireplace, Domus demands 25 Gs for the piece. As we "value-engineer" our wish list, this selection probably won't make the cut! The search continues for a similar motorized TV cabinet with a sleek design but a lower price point. Any advice?

12.22.2009

Lowering the Gas Bill

After much deliberation, we decided it was in our best interest to replace the insulation on the main level of the house. So last weekend, after hitting up our new hangout, Home Depot, Matt put me to work helping him install our new insulation. Contrary to popular belief, I am quickly realizing that I am capable of doing a multitude of construction-related tasks, installing insulation being one of them. It's not all that tricky, but it is extremely unpleasant to the senses. Dust masks are a must, but I am not convinced that hours of breathing in one of those things is good for you either. Also, I failed to cover my forearms at first and managed to rub them up against some insulation early on in the night--not a good move. They were still itching the next day!

All in all it was one of the easier tasks we have completed that will make the most impact in the long run. After a few hours of teamwork, we lowered our gas bill.

12.15.2009

Deconstruction

Two weeks into demolition and we have worked ourselves to sickness. Matt and I are both suffering from colds, though it is not from the lack of heat at the new house. The radiant heat works very well, much to our surprise as the original copper pipes are still in place.
We had a very efficient work day last weekend with loads of help from family and friends. The walls on the main level were finished in wood paneling, which was one of the first things to head to the dumpster. After tearing out the paneling we found radiant barrier foil insulation underneath, a product with mixed reviews. We are investigating whether this will need to be replaced. By the end of the weekend we had all the paneling down, the kitchen completely demo'd, layers of vinyl flooring scraped off the kitchen floor, three crazy closets demo'd from the bedrooms, every nail and staple pulled from the wood floors, and a very clean stone fireplace wall.


Matt has been busy rewiring the electrical this week. Is it possible for every switch and outlet in the old kitchen to be at a different height? Oh yes, and of course we want to pay attention to every detail in this renovation, so many hours were spent deliberating the height and placement of every outlet and switch to be added or moved. Thank you, Matt.

12.04.2009

Kitchen Wall Demolition

Talk about a fun way to spend a Friday night. With the fireplace roaring, and his stereo blasting the Cavs game for all the neighbors to hear, Matt demolished the two walls and built-in cabinet that previously enclosed the kitchen. The floor plan of the first floor living area is a very large, open space, but the kitchen was so small and cut off from the flow of the house. We knew we wanted to open it up to the rest of the room.
However, we did not know what we would discover once the walls were removed. We expected to find a load-bearing post under the main support beam--and we did--but we had assumed it would be a steel post just like those at the other two load-bearing points in the room. It was not. Instead there were three 2x4's nailed together. Now that this support will be exposed, rather than inside the wall, we will probably try to replace it with a matching steel post.
We also learned that much of the electrical wiring for the room came up through the wall that was removed, and when Matt cut the wiring to remove the wall, much of the lighting in the room was disabled. Let the troubleshooting begin.
Now for the fun part--before & after:
Thankfully, we have some family and friends coming over to help clean up our mess tomorrow!