April 2015

I feel a country music song coming on …
April 17, 2015 at 1:08 am 1
CountryMusic ... a month into purchasing the Benjamin Jacob's house, if I were being completely honest, most days it was all getting to be a bit much. We were using half the upstairs bathroom as a kitchen, each morning I would awkwardly bump into contractors before I had laid hands on coffee or a bra, and my personal favorite - each week I hauled 6 people's worth of dirty clothes, sheets and towels to a local laundromat and then patiently waited and waited and waited. I posted the above from a laundromat on one such evening. What kept me going? Ah, that most beautiful of events called The World Cup. At this point, the bedrooms were all painted and inhabited, so I was painting the front living rooms. I fondly remember this project above all others, preoccupied, half listening to and half watching the World Cup games while screaming for the underdogs, cursing at the refs for their numerous bad calls - and all in all, embracing the new found distraction with open arms. A couple of weeks later, we did finally have laundry on the second floor (halle-frickin-lujah!!), which meant our contractor could return his efforts to the kitchen. He did a beautiful job tying the new hardwood floors into the old, and getting everything in place. And as the custom cabinets from Joe Giunta's Fine Woodworking got installed with the new appliances, the kitchen really started to feel like it was coming together. And if I can take a second to gloat, the decision to take down the wall was absolutely genius! IMG_1729IMG_1730IMG_1731IMG_1732IMG_1733IMG_1734 The countertops were a particularly difficult decision. In our last house, we had sprung for soapstone, which I had loved, loved, loved. But given the mounting expenses, I had to find a more affordable option. I'm not a huge fan of granite or the more brittle stones, like marble, so decided to hunt for a warmer alternative. After more hours than should have been spent on home improvement websites, I finally found Craft Art in Georgia, who would ship us unfinished black walnut countertops at an amazing price. Joe helped us to create a high-end edge, making the whole look better than I could have imagined. Kitchen_almost2Kitchen_almost1Kitchen_almost4 Even though we still had a ways to go, by this point the kitchen truly felt like the heart of our home. We took the bay window area and made that into a breakfast nook with lots of comfy cushions, and we recreated the paneled finish around the bar area to have the same look as the original paneling that is around the doorway into the kitchen and also around the arch out to the bay.   Kitchen_almost3Kitchen_almost6Kitchen_almost5
Early Days, Roof
What’s better than one roof?
April 4, 2015 at 3:07 pm 0

Two roofs, of course!

Just after we moved in, Ben and I noticed that the roof's surface appeared to have some buckles and waves. Nothing worrisome had shown up on the inspection report other than the need to replace the roof, so we remained hopeful that there wasn't going to be a really expensive problem that would eat up our entire renovation budget. When we pointed this out to our roofer Ivan the day he came over for his initial inspection, he didn't seem overly concerned. We took him up to the 3rd floor so he could inspect the roof through the rafters. After about 10 minutes of him leaning out windows and climbing up ladders to get a closer look, he gave us the diagnosis - the current roof was laid over an even older cedar shingle roof. He estimated that the cedar roof was well over one hundred years old. Because both roofs were in pretty dire shape, Ivan recommended that we remove them both and lay all new board before installing the new roof. Roof_Front4 Roof_Front5 By this point, it was the first week of June and we had only been in the house for a few weeks. The weather forecast for the week ahead was clear skies, so it seemed there was no time like the present to start the roof project. That first day we were woken at 6 am by the sounds of scraping and banging above our heads. We hadn't yet hung any curtains on our bedroom windows, so we laid in bed watching wood and old roof falling from above as we contemplated getting up and tackling our own full day of house chores. Roof_Rear2  Roof_Rear3 Our home's main staircase is quite tight, which made it impossible to move the headboard of our king bed upstairs. We asked Ivan if we could use his equipment to get the headboard to our bedroom. Just off our master bedroom is a second floor balcony, so this approach worked like a charm! Why hadn't we moved ALL the furniture and boxes upstairs this way! Ben_Coming_Up2 Bed_Coming_Up The roofers worked from 6 am until sunset, taking short breaks for food and water. I was amazed by their ability to cling to the side of the roof while making fast work of this huge project. By the end of the first day, most of the old roofs were removed, and by the second day, the new boards were going up. Meanwhile, we were working inside on painting projects with the help of several very kind friends. At dinner time, we grilled burgers and hotdogs and made up plates of food for the workmen. Wanting to squeeze every last second of light from the day, they took their dinners up on the roof - inhaling their meal and then returning to their work. Amazing! Roof_Board1   Roofer_dinner Roofer_dinner2  Rafters Thanks to all of their hard work, the first major project for our home was completed. We still have a number of metal roofs to redo this coming summer, including the lopsided front porch, but at least the main roof was finished. New_Roof
To Wall or Not to Wall – The Kitchen Debate
April 2, 2015 at 2:24 am 0
On the other side of the kitchen was (notice the past tense) a room with lovely views of the front garden and park through the bay window. As it had a built in nook in the wall that is shared with the kitchen, Ben saw this as being a perfect spot to hang a flat screen TV. Add a couple well placed comfy Lazy Boys and voila! A family room is born. This room is situated on the south facing side of the house, so from sunrise to mid afternoon, it continues to enjoy bright light all day long. Kitchen_Before  Kitchen_Bay_Before The kitchen on the other hand, which sits behind this room and faces north - was dark and unwelcoming. This large yet claustrophobic space was screaming for a gigantic gulp of fresh air. Simply solved: the "TV" wall had to go. Ben resisted, both realtors were unsure, but I remained adamant. The heart of the house would not pump freely until these rooms were united as one! Yes, way dramatic, but hey, I got my way! Kitchen_Before3  Kitchen_Before5 As soon as the barrier began to be removed, you could almost hear the entire house take a gigantic deep breath. In an instant, the kitchen had gone from 2 windows to 6 and the light poured in. Kitchen_Wall_Still_Up  Kitchen_Wall_Coming_Down_1 My evil plan was that there would be a half wall and kitchen bar between the two rooms. This would provide a space for cabinets and the sink, while also making a wonderful place to hang with the kids while they did their homework, or entertain friends while preparing a meal. Best of all, Ben loved how it was shaping up too. Removing so much wall did require a mega beam to be installed, with supports that extend into the basement foundation. Kitchen_Before6 Kitchen_HalfWall_Framing Probably the absolute coolest two finds during this phase of the renovation were the original floor joists - 225 year old tree trunks complete with bark - and also the signature found behind one of the old wall cabinets of the last person to renovate the home's kitchen, Mr. Joe Marsh on Aug 10th 1965. Fifty-four years between kitchen renovations sounds about right! Kitchen_OldTreeTrunks  Kitchen_JoeMarsh We had hoped to find an old hardwood floor under the dated linoleum, but alas, it was a mishmash of God Help Us! Because the floor was so uneven, and we wanted to lay new hardwood to tie in with the now front kitchen (aka "the Honey a TV room is a terrible idea"), we decided to tear up the mess and our contractor lay an all new subfloor. He also sistered up a number of the tree trunk floor joists to provide additional support. Day by day, the transformation of the space was incredible. Just wait until the cabinets and countertops go in! Next time, my friends. I think Mr. Marsh will approve.