So much for being done by Christmas...!

But at least 1 step is completely finished: the wallpaper in the living room is gone. We now have large expanses of concrete-colored plaster just waiting to be skimcoated and painted. We just need to get our schedule in sync with Shayne's friend the skimcoater, and maybe we'll have some paint on the walls by Easter.

The ceiling is also ready for the next step. All of the furring strips are gone, and the ceiling actually stayed up without them (I had my doubts). There are only 3 or 4 places that can be considered bad. the rest is just little cracks. The plaster washers arrived in the mail weeks ago, but we're waiting on the expert opinion of the skimcoater before we touch anything.

We did put a Christmas tree up, which I think is kind of funny considering how bad the room looks overall. My friend AJ described it as "a train wreck", but after living with it for a few months, it actually seems somewhat cozy. I guess when you compare it to having carpet halfway removed, wallpaper falling off the walls, and ceiling tiles stacked everywhere having a "naked" (but clean!!) room is wonderful.

The next step is to remove the wallpaper going up the stairs and into the upstairs hallway and start stripping the trim. The trim will most likely wait on some slightly warmer weather, though, since it's about 4°F right now. Not the kind of weather I want to be out in the garage in.

We realized with the cold weather that the back porch is a major source of coldness. The bathroom out there is absoloutely frigid, but the metal door doesn't help. As a temporary solution, I put a curtain up in the doorway between the kitchen and the porch. Not the classiest solution, but it definitely works. There's about a 15° temperature difference between the porch and the house now. The bathroom is even colder, but we never use it, so it's not a huge deal.

All is going well with the rest of the house. No major disasters happened as a result of winter, which made me happy. The heat bill wasn't even as high as I'd feared. The washing machine did break today, though, so Shayne will have to take a look at it tonight or tomorrow. Honestly, though, I wouldn't mind an excuse to get a new one...


Real-life home restoration

I'd like to say that I haven't been writing because I've been so busy working on the house that I just didn't have time. Unfortunately, that's not true. Our life has been so busy that housework is still on hold. You gotta love shows like "trading Spaces" where they bring in an armada of people and completely transform 3 rooms of your house in 6.35 hours, but real house work just isn't like that. First of all, there's only 2 of us. Second, we don't have a clue what we're doing!! Third, we have lives. Busy ones. I had to work 16 hours on Thanksgiving, and Shayne's been working side jobs. Plus, I have DRT (Detention Response Team. Basically the jail's version of a SWAT team, only non-lethal. Here's a brocure of the latest class our team attended down in Hamilton County. The guys with "DRT" on their shirts are us. You can also see them in the group picture [2nd and 3rd row, starting with the guy in the boonie hat and over to the dude in the baseball cap]. I'll be going to SERT class in the spring, along with the other newer folks on the team.) Being on DRT means that I'm on-call 24/7, and one of my days off last week got eaten up by a team activation. We also have training every other week, in addition to my regular work schedule.

When you thnk about it, it's amazing we're getting anything done.

I'm off for the next 3 days (plus today), so I'll definitely be working on stuff around here. I also have training for work for the next 2 weeks (starting Monday), and I'll be on a regular 8-to-5 schedule, which will give me evenings to work on the house. I'll probably run out of wallpaper before then and start working on stripping the trim.


A "Lack of Progress" report

House work has still been at a minimum this week... Shayne got all of the furring blocks off of the ceiling, though, and the drywall guy is coming tomorrow. No, we're not going to drywall the living room...! He's going to skimcoat the ceiling and walls for us. Tomorrow is just a "let's see what we have here" day, since the plaster washers haven't arrived yet.

I stripped a little wallpaper this evening, but I'm taking it slow, since I don't want to anger my shoulder. It's still a little achy. I was planning on doing more work today, but got interrupted by being called into work. I'm on the Detention Response Team (basically the jail's SWAT team), and we're on-call 24 hours a day. I got 4 hours of overtime out of it, though, so I really can't complain. I have tomorrow off too, so hopefully I'll have some more progress to report.


It's cold!!

According to the Weather Channel, it is currently 22°F (feels like 7°F with wind chill factored in). Now that it's this cold, you can really tell: this house is drafty! Many of the windows have weather stripping already, but it's from the 80s (at best). The front and back doors leak really badly. No wonder I'm chilly!

Shayne and I have been looking for arts and crafts style area rugs. We've found several that we really like (one even with a ginkgo design that looks really authentic), but they're all at least $2500, and some are as much as $4500. I don't have a problem paying for quality, but I think that's a bit excessive for a rug. I really don't want to spend more than $1000. Maybe I'm being unrealisitic in my expectations, but I just can't see paying as much for a rug as our bathroom renovation!

Winter comes to Michiana

No, that's not a typo. Our little area of Indiana, as well as nearby Michigan, is collectively called "Michiana." It's used on the news, weather, radio and TV ads... After a while, it even starts to sound normal. And, it's even pretty accurate, since I could see Michigan, if I were to climb up on my roof. They don't even bother putting up "Michigan" signs when you enter Michigan, except on maybe 2 roads, so you can unexpectedly find yourself in another state.

But anyways...

Progress on the house has come to something of a standstill. I haven't been able to strip wallpaper, because my shoulder is acting up. I injured it playing basketball in the 7th grade, but it just hasn't been the same since. Shayne's been working a lot of part-time hours, so he's been too busy or tired to do anything with the ceiling. His friend Phil, who does drywall work, will be coming over next week to take a look at the ceiling to see what it would cost to skim-coat it. We'd be helping, but we thought it would be a good idea to have someone along who knows what the heck they're doing.

I've been thinking a lot about the bathroom again. I think we're at a concensus that it will be our next project. Both of us love baths, and we're really starting to feel the lack of a real bathtub. The one we have is maybe 6" deep. When I fill it to the overflow and sit in it, it doesn't even completely cover my thighs. And I'm not big at all!! So, in order to have a bathroom that will accomodate both a big, clawfoot or pedestal tub and a stand-up stall shower, we're thinking of expanding the bathroom into the hall closet, which has a lot of wasted space, due to the strangeness of its design. Here is the floor plan as it is now:
The hall closet is situated between the bathroom and office, and has doors opening into the hall and the bedroom. Not shown in the picture are the shelving unit at the back (on the bathoom wall) and the clothes rods (on the bedroom wall). There is also another hanging rod directly inside the hall door. The shelves are really not being used, since the clothes rods block them from both doors. So... we were thinking of taking up the wasted space taken up by the shelves and using it as a bathtub alcove, like in the plan below.
We could still use 18" or so of the space as a closet, plus, since we will be replacing the wall between the office and master bedroom closet, we could add a second closet in that area. The current master bedroom closet has about 4 or 5 feet of space that is all but inaccessable, due to the placement of the doors, so the new closet would utilize that space.

The purist in me is rebelling against adding/removing/changing walls. The logical side (as well as the part of me that wants a nice, big bathroom) is reminding me that 3 of these 5 walls were added to begin with and have nothing to do with the original plan of the house. And, we'd reuse the current original closet door in one of the new closets, so we wouldn't be losing character.

It's definitely worth thinking on.


Living room update in pictures

Shayne bringing down the ceiling

The finished product

One of the two bad ceiling cracks

A light fixture revealed under the ceiling tiles

The PO's fix for everything: nails!!


Today was a busy day for house work. We pulled up the remaining 6 feet of carpet and removed about 60% of the nail strips. Just FYI, the last bit of carpet had to wait until I had unloaded two very full bookshelves. The entire acoustic tile ceiling is now a pile of rubble, as is the trim surrounding it. And, between yesterday and today, a full wall of wallpaper has been removed. That leaves us with 2 more walls in the living room, one of which is mostly doorway. There's a little wallpaper in the upstairs hallway, but most of that area is doorways, so it shouldn't be too much work. I'd say about 8 more hours, and all of the wallpaper will be gone (Hallelujia!!!).

Tomorrow, Shayne will begin working on removing the furring strips, which are actually more like 1 by 2s. And of course, they were attached with nails. Big nails. And lots of them. He's going to be using a cutting bit on a Dremel, which worked well on our test strip. He cuts the board on either side of the nail, then uses vise grips to pull the nail and remaining little piece of wood out of the ceiling. We didn't want to use a pry bar; since there are so many nails we thought it would just damage the ceiling more, and we had to get a little creative. We'll see how well it works tomorrow.


Thank God for 3-day weekends...

And not just this week - all the time! Of course, I have to work a 6 day week, but I get 20 more days off per year than a 5-and-2 schedule. I'm hoping to get some serious work done on the wallpaper removal. I'd have to say that I'm about 50% done as far as the amount of paper is concerned. Labor-wise, maybe 30%. that last coat is a beast, even with the sander. It's going SO much faster than before, though, so I'm thrilled.

Walking downstairs to a hardwood floor every morning is making me so happy... It makes a huge difference in the character of the house. It actually looks like an old house now, instead of a 80's explosion. Every time I look at it, I just imagine how nice it will look with all the moulding stripped, and the walls and floor looking fresh and new...

Is there really anything more fulfilling than restoring your own home?


Spontaneous demolition

Last night, we spontaneously ripped out the living room carpet. It started out as removing some woodwork, but somehow Shayne started picking at the carpet...

This is what our living room looks like now...
The floor is in excellent shape, but (as with everything else in this house!) there's something a little odd. It looks to me like some previous owner (probably the one who built walls out of paneling) had an oriental rug in the room. And instead of refinishing the floor, he only refinished around the edges where the rug wasn't. So... The floor has the old finish in the middle and a new finish in an 18" border around the room. Whatever. We have to sand it all down anyways.


It *was* a nice house...

And then we got a hold of it... It now looks something like a crack house. Just about all of the unpainted wallpaper is off, so we moved forward a bit on the whole project. Shayne removed the paneling from the stairway, the trim from those two windows, as well as all of the curtains/curtain rods, and the trim from the front 3 windows. Pictures will be posted tomorrow, but there's no doubt now that we're working on the house. Seems ironic that to make the house look better, we're making it worse. And right now isn't even as bad as it will get. Pretty soon we'll have naked plaster, falling-down ceilings, no woodwork, and no carpet. I'm so excited :)

I need to start a "Why?!" file on the house. Today we found the old sash weights in the windows when we removed the trim. The old wood windows were replaced in the 70s or 80s, but they just left the weights. So we now have 8 (soon to be more) 10lb weights in the office. They're free to a good home, if anyone wants them.

'Why?!" #2 - While removing the curtain rod, we had some problems getting the nails out of the wall. It didn't help that they were 5 inches long... What were these people thinking?

I also found some newspaper in the wall from September 19, 1957. It was behind the paneled section, next to window trim. There's an ad for the Tivoli Theatre in Mishawaka, which was knocked down this past year (I'm still upset about it). It was a movie theatre in 1957, and there are showtimes listed for "The Kettles on Old MacDonald's Farm" and "Dino". Beiger Furniture was having its 56th anniversary sale. Round Steak was 19¢ per pound at O'Bleni's (which I've never heard of).

I wonder if in 50 years, people will be looking with interest at things that we have in advertently left in this house...


My dilemma

So now we know what the plaster underneath the wallaper looks like. It's really not in bad shape at all. There are some hairline cracks, but nothing wide. No chunks falling off. It's a little bumpy and uneven, but if I look half that good at 80+ years, I'll be overjoyed.

My dilemma now is whether or not to continue removing the wallpaper/liner. It's stuck to the plaster *everywhere*, and it takes about an hour to uncover 4 square feet. The room is about 17.5 feet by 11 feet. With 7.5 foot of wall from ceiling to molding, that equals 345 square feet of wall (1 wall is paneled with heaven-only-knows-what under it, so I didn't even add that one in). Subtract for windows and doorways, and I'd venture to say we still have at least 220 square feet of wall. That's 54 hrs of wallpaper stripping. Plus the stairway and upstairs hall, which adds maybe 50 square feet of wall space.

I feel like I'm taking the easy way out (which I would be) if I cover it all with Nu-Wal, but I don't think I have the time to de-paper the living room, stairs, and upstairs hallway. Since they all flow together, there would be no way to Nu-Wal some of it while leaving the original plaster in the rest. In a way, it would still be historically accurate, since the walls were originally covered before painting. I just don't know... I'd never rip the plaster out, but is it acceptable to cover it in order to expedite the process of having a finished room?

It's definitely cheaper to strip it and paint it. My heart is telling me to have "virgin" plaster walls, but my practical side wants to see a new room ASAP. But restoration isn't about ASAP... It's about patience, love, and hard work. It's about peeling off the crap to uncover what things whould look like. And they shouldn't look like Nu-Wal. They should look like plaster.

In other news, I found the plaster ceiling underneath the acoustic ceiling tiles. This is the plaster I was expecting on the walls; it's cracked, textured, and kinda scary. It's also punctuated by "furring strips" every 12 inches. The reason furring strips is in quotes is because they aren't real strips. More like chunks. They're about 3/4" thick and maybe 1" wide. Solid wood. They're nailed down with what look like roofing nails. What were the previous previous owners thinking?!

A face only a mother could love

I always knew this, but I'm realizing anew that it really does take a special kind of person to own/restore an old house. Do you honestly know many people who could be excited about walls that look like this:


I have plaster! (somewhere...)

It didn't feel much like Halloween yesterday, probably because I can't really do anything to celebrate. How can you when you're at work (and at a job that absoloutely requires a uniform...)? We didn't even bother to decorate, what with the wallpaper project and all. I was hoping to put a few things up for fall in general, but there's really nowhere to hang or put things where they won't be in the way.

All things considered, the wallpaper removal is going well. It's much more time-consuming that I had anticipated, but I'm very pleased with the progress. Last night I finished the front wall of the living room. It was probably the most difficult wall, since it has a set of windows as well as the front door. Until my next 3 days off, I can only work on the wallpaper before and after work, so progressis slower than I would like. There seems to be 3 layers of paper, then a layer of painted paper over the plaster. The first layer came off very easily, but after that, it's all scraping and peeling after wetting it down. I'm laving the final, painted layer of paper on for now, since the plaster underneath is "naked". I was expecting ugly, cracked, patched plaster after feeling all the bumps and uneveness under the wallpaper, but our plaster managed to surprise me. It's actually in very good shape. There are cracks, of course, but that's really about all. Except for the fact that it's missing its finish coat. This was done to save money and time, and I've heard that it's fairly common. Only, instead of painting, it was papered, which was more popular at the time, but has caused a snafu in our plans. The final layer of paper is VERY stuck to the plaster, and I have no idea how to get it off. I'm afraid to use chemicals, since the plaster is porus, and I'm afraid the primer won't stick to it if we do that. I don't want to scrape too much, because of the sandy texture. It's much softer than a finish coat, and I'm afraid it will just come off the wall. It will look nice once we paint it, judging from the upstairs closet that was painted, but I have no clue how to get that last layer off. Here's a pic of the painted paper with the plaster showing underneath:The picture doesn't show it too well, but there is sand and horsehair right on the top layer. it's actually very interesting to look at.

Funny thing: I thought that the wallpaper was up because the plaster was in horrible shape. It's great to know that the plaster is fine, just kind of unfinished! :)

Next step: remove the baseboards and window/door trim. Get that danged paper off the walls, and start stripping the woodwork. The ceiling tiles will also come down and we'll deal with whatever is under there. at the same time, we'll also pull up the carpet. It's helping to keep the dust down right now, but it really has to go. We'll then paint the walls and ceiling and have the floors refinished. It's exciting to make progress, no matter how small!


Ode to the wallpaper

I have official spousal permission to start tearing down wallpaper...! I've decided to start in the living room, since that's one of the most often seen/used rooms. I'm really nervous about the whole thing (what if the wallpaper brings the walls down with it??), but it has to be done, and there's no time like the present! Plus, it's one of the least cost-intensive things we can do that will have a big impact on the house. And... once the wallpaper is down, we can bring up the carpet and have the floors refinished. So it might start looking like an old house instead of a 70s remodel gone bad. Before the floors will be the ceiling tiles, and that will probably be the hardest part. For one, I'll be working on a ladder the whole time. Plus, the adhesive left behind will need to be warmed with a heat gun, then scraped off (can you say labor-intensive??). Then, you have to figure that they covered the ceiling for a reason. Like maybe that it's falling down and cracked and scary. So it will need to be fixed. As much as I'm hoping to find beautiful, intact, plastered ceilings, I'm really not counting on it. At all.

I think one of the reasons I'm so worried is that right now, as much as I hate the "decor", the house is intact. There are no cracks, holes, dust, dirt, or anything that would lead you to believe that this house is in need of repair. Sure there's ugly wallpaper and carpet, but it's liveable. I don't have to dread people coming over because the house looks like a home. When we start messing with stuff, it will usher in at least 5 years (and probably more like a decade) of work. And even though the work will result in our house becoming a restored home, we'll have to live in it during the transition. Which will mean dust, power tools, extension cords, displaced furniture, dust, scary walls, lead paint, dirt, dust, and disorder. I, unlike Shayne, have never lived in a disorganized home under construction. I'm afraid of getting in way over my head with a project I have no hope of completing without professional help, and having to live in self-imposed chaos for longer than I can stand. And this is about 99% likely to happen. We will uncover something scary, ugly, and expensive to fix. That's what happens when you disturb the status quo. It's not that there aren't things wrong with the house, it's just that you can't see them. So we don't have to deal with them. And even though I know we're financially prepared to deal with plaster issues, I'm afraid that whatever I find under those layers of wallpaper will scare me out of wanting to restore our house. Or any houses in the future.

Logically, I know this isn't true. I've worked on old building before, scraping paint off of Frank Llyod Wright tiled windows, sweeping up 40 years of plaster and dust, scraping paint out of plaster-cast moldings with a dental pick, and stripping 7 layers of laytex and lead paint off of woodwork... And I love it.
But I've never had to live in it.

For me, the wallpaper is symbolic. It's the first step of a journey into the unknown. It's the first layer to uncovering the beautiful home that's underneath the paneling, wallpaper, carpet, and remuddling. Once the first strip of wallpaper comes down, the house will no longer be finished, and it will usher in the begining of the restoration. And as scared as I am, I can't wait to see the house that will be revealed as we peel off the layers of ugliness that have encased it. Besides, this house is 80 years old. Nothing I can do to it can be any worse that what it's already seen.


How wrong is this?!

I want to replace the heat vents upstairs with ones that match the originals in the spare room and living room. Problem: They're expensive! See Exhibit A. Not only are they $45 a piece, but that's for broken ones!

"Continuity" Question: What is a period-appropriate replacement for bi-fold closet doors? Granted, we will be replacing the walls that both closet doors are located on, but the space is too narrow to make a single-door walk-in closet. I don't mind the idea of a curtain, but I don't think Shayne will go for it.


Yes, I'm lazy...

But the truth is, we just don't have anything to report. Saving up money to begin a project seems to take forever!! I need to remind myself that We're not on a time schedule, and that there's no rush. The gawd-awful wallpaper will still be here in December... Plus, as you live with things, you tend to get used to them. I hardly even see the ceiling tiles and paneling anymore. And the 70s carpet? Not an issue. I still want it gone, but it doesn't seem as pressing as it did 3 months ago.

In addition, we now hae 2 new things to worry about. First item: the little extension that connects the original garage (now workshop) to the new garage leaks. A LOT. The wood is rotten, and we're desperately hoping it will last til spring. We plan on retarring the roofm which is unfortunately flat, but are unsure how to do it, since we don't think it will support our weight. It's only about 3 feet wide and 7 feet long, but it's making a mess every time it rains.

Problem #2: Our garage is infested with squirrels. They're tearing out the insulation and making a mess. We can hear them running in the rafters over our heads when we pull in at night. We thought about trapping and releasing them, but Shayne read that they can find their way home from over 25 miles away. And we thought about trapping them to kill them, but that doesn't really solve the problem of them getting in. We have no idea how or where, so others might move in even if we kill the ones that are there.

Oh, the joys of living int he country...


More Ideas...

Last night, I started thinking about the back porch/laundry room/bathroom. It's the most-used entrance to the house, so it's the logical location for a mudroom. Problem being, there's no room back there for mudroom-type storage. Observe:

Picture #1 is taken from the doorway leading in to the dining room and kitchen. This was taken to show how little room there is for the washing machine. It's squashed between the bathroom (lefthand side) and the cabinets, and when the outside door is opened, it covers up the washer.

Picture #2 is taken from outside and shows the little walkway between the cabinet and the dryer. The bathroom door is to the right of the cabinet. You also have a nice view of our dumping ground, aka the microwave. With both of us having work radios, we'll definitely need a "charging statio" in in the mudroom. Other assorted work tools get dumped here was well (flashlight and charger, keys, cell phones). Also visible in the picture are both Bach and C.C. who are eagerly awaiting breakfast!

Picture #3 shows the teeny-tiny bathroom. You actually have to sit diagonally on the toilet because there's no clearance for your legs if you sit straight. Aside from being uncomfortable, I'm sure it's a code violation. Although our inspection didn't catch it, we might not be so lucky next time.

The whole back porch area is 9'4" by 7'7". We're thinking of expanding it to the whole length of the house, which would make it 18'2" by 7'7". Definitely much more room. We'd then have room for a luncry center, coat hooks and storage cubbies, and a full-sized bathroom (possibly with a shower stall). The foundation for the current back porch seems to be just frame, not concrete like I thought originally. Not sure yet if we'd demo the original porch or add on to it. Probably add on. And if I can convince Shayne to let me keep it clapboard, we can see how well that will stand up to the elements (he seems to think it will need to be painted every 3 years or so).


The Carpeted Kitchen

I'm so impatient to begin work on this house... A few more months of saving and we will be in a position to do some worry-free work. I say worry-free, since we shouldn't have the problem of running out of money in the middle of a project if things end up being more difficult and expensive than budgeted. One of the sad realities of home improvement: money will always be a factor. As gung-ho as I am about getting started, I don't want to end up in the middle of a project I can't finish. Until then, I'll just continue to come up with ideas and bug the heck out of my poor husband...!

Today's annoying room is the kitchen. I don't know why it's bothering me so much today, but for some reason, that carpet is just getting to me. I've cleaned it once already, but it's just dirty and stained. I found a piece of the unused carpet in the garage... The stuff in the kitchen is dirtier than I thought. But I don't want to recover the kitchen floor if we're going to redo the cabinets eventually, too. And we are. I want the sink to be centered under the window. And maybe for the cabinets to go all the way to the ceiling, for storage of items we rarely use. The appliance "garage" can go. And the little makeshift shelves next to the window...? Nice idea, but definitely could look a little more professional! Below is a counter-clockwise rotation of the kitchen, starting from the back of the house (east).

Happily, the original kitchen cabinets are out in the garage. I'll never convince Shayne to let me restore them and reuse them, but they will be a guideline of what the kitchen should be. The re-arrangement options are low, though, since there are lots of doorways and such to work around. Next to the refrigerator is the doorway to the back porch laundry room and bathroom. The bottom picture shows the doorway into the dining room, and the chimney next to the pantry. On the other side of the chimney is another doorway, a double-wide that is NOT original to the house. That one might be replaced with a regular doorway so that it can be properly trimmed and a built-in hutch can go on the back wall of the dining room without blocking the existing doorway.

After the plaster is finished and the hardwood floors restored, the kitchen will likely be the next big project. After all my worries about the bathroom, that will probably be last. Even though I don't like it the way it is, it's actually the most recently re-done room, and it's in the best shape. Why tear up a clean, functioning space when there's a carpeted kitchen waiting?


Ideas and project planning

Since I'm not smart enough to have made myself an actual webpage yet, I decided to post a link to Webshots to give access to my "Idea File". You can access that (and other assorted photos of mine) here.

I've been doing lots of thinking about the plaster. After much research, I believe that we can do most of the work ourselves. We can patch any cracks or holes, and if the wall is absoloutely hideous, we can put up wire mesh and use joint compound to recreate a smooth wall surface. This method has already been used in the bathroom (and probably 2 of the bedrooms, as they have no wallpaper and textured ceilings).
click to make it larger...

Another option (most likely for ceilings) is a product called Nu-Wal. You might have seen the ads for it in the back of Old House Journal. Basically, it is a fiberglass sheeting that is adhered to the wall and painted. Same basic idea as liner wallpaper, but supposedly longer-lasting and designed to hide imperfections. I'm not sure how keen I am on the idea, since you're basically covering the plaster with a fake wall... Still, it's a thought, in case the ceilings are as bad as I'm afraid they will be.

The walls between the master bedroom, master closet, and the office will have to be redone, as with the wall between the office and the office closet. I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but they're made out of framing and paneling. No drywall. No plaster. Just 1/8" paneling nailed to the studs. Those will be replaced with blueboard with plaster veneer.

So... I think that will be project #1.

Project #2 will be replacing the carpet in the kitchen (yes, a carpeted kitchen...) with linoleum. Maybe that should be #1, since it will be so much cheaper...!


Lazy days

I am a non-blogging individual lately. Not that there's really any progress to report anyways... The weather had been awesome (70s during the day, 50s at night), so I've been outside working on the yard and not inside working on the house. The POs left quite a bit of grass and weeds and their flower beds, and I decided to take care of it before spring. We also have this crabapple tree next to the garage, so there are cherry-sized crabapples EVERYWHERE. I raked half a trashcan-full out of the grass the other day, and there's probably still that many in the flowerbed and again as much on the tree. It's a nicely-shaped tree, and it's in a good location, but I think I'm going to have to cut it down and replace it with something that flowers but doesn't fruit. Maybe a weeping cherry or even a Japanese maple...

S is wanting us to stick with the 6 month waiting period before we start doing any serious work on the house. As much as I want to get started, I'm willing to conceed that he's probably right. I'm going to start stripping woodwork and doors this winter, and I might get the wallpaper down in the office, but that's probably as far as it will go until spring. The woodwork should not cost any significant amount to strip (some chemical stripper, denatured alcohol, sandpaper, and I already have the heat gun), but the wallpaper should wait until we can afford to hire a plasterer should the worst happen. I don't want to have crumbling walls for 6 months while we save up enough to have them repaired.

Patience is a virtue. One that I desperately wish I possessed!


We have cable!!

Woo-hoo for fast internet!! Of course, now that I have it, I can't think of any of the bazillion things I've been dying to look up for the past 2 weeks. Go figure.

Other than that, not much is new and exciting. S will be gone all next week at a class for work, so I'm going to start stripping my dresser on my 3 days off. It will probably turn out to be a slow and painful process, as I've never used a heat gun to strip paint, but if I screw it up, I can always paint over it again. It can't look any worse than it does now anyways.

It's 3 am, and I'm kind of tired, so I should probably get ready for bed. Pictures of various things to come soon, now that I can :)


A-Mazing ducts

The ductwork in this house is frightening. There are new vents and old vents, and ducts going everywhere. The upstairs doesn't get enough air, and the basement gets too much. And there's no way to shut off then vents in the basement, so all of our air conditioning is going down there. Enough gets to the main floor to cool it off, but the upstairs is about 5 degrees warmer than the main floor. Doesn't sound like that much, but there's a big difference between 76° and 81° when you're trying to sleep.

I'm going to look into a way to re-work the ducts to make our heating and cooling more effiicient. In our old rental house, the furnace was located in the center of the basement, with a single duct going straight up through the house. All of the grates were located off of that duct, on opposite sides of the wall. If you were to take the grates off, you could see from one room into another. The neat thing about that arrangement was that in the summer, you could almost completely close the downstairs vents, and the cool air would all go upstairs (and since cool air sinks, it would still keep the downstairs cool). You'd then reverse it in the winter and keep the downstairs ducts open more so that the heat would naturally rise to the second floor. I'm sure there was probably a better arrangement, but that one worked extremely well for that house.

This house will be considerably more difficult, since it is larger and hasa less simple layout. First on my agenda is to find a way to block off the basement vents. One of them is a round ceiling vent like the kind seen in commercial buildings, and there's no way to turn it off. The other one is a wall vent, but it is unnecessary. In a smallish room like that, you really only need the one centrally located vent. I'm going to look for a way to disconnect the wall vent from the system. Once there's less A/C going to the basement, we should get more going upstairs. Just in time for cooler weather, of course. :)


Some random thoughts

Thought for the day: dial-up internet stinks.  I’m looking forward to seeing our cable guy on Friday.  Then maybe I’ll write a bit more, since I won’t have to wait 10 minutes just to log into my blog.  The other bonus of having cable will be that I can host my site through Comcast instead of Blogger.  I’m not horribly proficient with HTML, but with a decent publisher, I’ll be able to make some layout and stylistic changes.  I definitely want to add an “Ideas” page, along with a “Before and After” section.  My friend AJ has an HTML “Bible” that he said I can borrow, so hopefully that will help me along.

Our housewarming party/BBQ was yesterday, and a good time was had by all.  We probably had about 30-35 people stop in.  We met our neighbors to the south, and our 2 neighbors next door to him also came by.  My cousin AM came in from Detroit, which was awesome.  I didn’t expect anyone from out-of-town.  Everyone liked the house, though, and I even got some leads on where I can find a decent plasterer.  

Now that the unpacking is complete, I’m anxious to start ripping up my office.  I haven’t done any further “peeking”under the wallpaper/carpet/ceiling tiles, but it’s only a matter of time.  New concern: The wall between the master bedroom closet and the office is made out of paneling (or some similar material…?).  I’m thinking that the original wall was somewhere in the middle of the closet, since the existing wall covers up part of the door trim in the office.  Will it be possible to move the wall 4 inches or so into the closet and still have enough room in there?  I’d like to reclaim my door trim…  And I’m fairly certain that we can handle the expense of one or two walls with skim-coat plaster.  


What lies beneath?

We're not even completely unpacked, and I already want to start tearing things apart... The mysteries of an older home are killing me! What's under the wallpaper/carpet/Pergo? Where were the walls before they added this closet? What, exactly, is this wall between the office and the master bedroom closet made out of ('cause it sure ain't plaster!)? What built-ins have been lost?

I e-mailed the previous owners hoping that they'd have some answers, but my message was returned to me. They left a phone number, though, so maybe I'll get brave and call them.

I peeked a bit under the wallpaper in the living room, and it looks like there's at least 3 layers, and possibly as many as 5, under there. I also did some peeking in the office, under the window where the wallpaper is already peeling, and this is what I found:

Clicking makes it larger...

I also looked into the bedroom closet, which is one of the few areas where you can see some plaster. This is what I saw when I looked up: Do you think that the paneling is holding up the ceiling plaster? It sure looks that way to me...!

And in the hallway by the stairs, there's a little hole where you can see under the paneling. And what do we have? More paneling. Yay.

Blogger seems to make the pictures darker than they really are, so it's had to see the paneling. But that's what's in the gap up there.

I'm seeing a lot of plaster repair in our future. On the up-side, 2 of the bedrooms and the upstairs bathroom are already done. On the down-side, that leaves the office, upstairs hallway, stairs, living room, dining room, and kitchen. And all of the ceilings of those rooms, too.

Time to start working some overtime...


Some good finds at a junque yard

My mom came over today and helped put the house together a bit more. We got a LOT accomplished. The living room is done (at least until I tear it apart when I rip up the carpet, tear down the wall paper, repair and repaint the walls, and refinish the floors...), and all of the other boxes have been moved to the rooms they belong in. It definitely looks much more homey and inviting now. I keep imagining it as it will look when it's finished, and I just can't wait to get started. It's so exciting to be able to put a house back to the way it should be. It reminds me of an old Rejuvenation ad. It said "If these walls could talk, they'd say, "Thank God you're here. The last people had terrible taste." While I know my house isn't all that bad, some of the decoration is... well, ugly.

Before the homemaking festivities, my mom and I also went up to South Haven for an art fair. In general, there isn't much at those things that I'd put in my house, but I found this awesome piece of pottery by a guy named Brad Patterson. It's a little dish shaped like a maple leaf... Very Arts & Crafts. I gave his business card to my mom, so I don't have his website, but I'll link to it when I get the address. Definitely worth checking out.

After the art fair, we headed up to an "antique" place (I use the term "antique" loosely, the place is more of an old junk yard, but we love going there). they had some archtectureal items, and I was able to find some baseboard trim that matches mine. The finish in it is damaged, but it's in excellent shape. I bought 19 feet, and I only need 11, so I'll have some extra, just in case. What a find!! I also found some over-the-dor trim that matched some that I needed, but it wasn't in very good shape. It was extremely dry and I wasn't sure that I could work with it, so I decided to hold out until I found something better. Still, one obstacle on the road to matching woodwork has been overcome.

baseboard in the living room (with more bad carpet and an awesome heat vent)

"new" trim stacked in the garage


I'm in love... :)

I love this house. It's so nice to have a big backyard, where the dog can run around and we'll have room for a water garden and a patio. We're surrounded by huge, mature trees, which I'm sure I'll dislike more once the leaves fall, but for right now, they're my favorite part of the property.

I've been pretty productive so far today. S and I went shopping and bought the stakes we need to put up the fence on the north and east property line. We still need to get some picket fence for the west (front), but we're not sure yet how much we'll need. I also cleaned the carpet in the kitchen. Why anyone would carpet the kitchen, I have no idea, but carpeted it is. It's going to be ripped up sometime around next spring, so I'm exploring period-appropriate flooring. I want to re-do the cabinet doors and counters, but I think those will have to wait a few years, since there's really nothing wrong with them. They're not even really ugly, they just aren't what I want.

Unpacking is continuing, slowly but surely. Why is it so hard to throw away things you know you don't really use?

And, in other news, we've decided to go with cable internet. At $13 for Basic cable and $43 for the internet, it's about twice as much as our DSL was, but at least we'll have some channels, should we ever decide to watch TV.    


I'm impatient!

Bleh. I'm tired. My life lately has been consumed by moving and unloading boxes... We're probably about 70% done, though. I need to go to Menard's or Lowe's or something and get a few organizers for the closets so that I can finish unpacking all of the little stuff that can go in there. We also need a few more small bookcases. I never realized how many books we had... No wonder my back hurts!

Even though we haven't even finished unpacking, I'm already impatient to begin some projects. I'd really like to see what's under the wallpaper, as scary as I'm sure it's going to be. There are places in the wall where there are some rather large "hills" that I think are bad repair jobs. Either way, I'd like to know, so we can deal with it. I plan on starting with my office, since it has the least neutral (and ugliest) paper.

Bach modeling the ugly wallpaper and carpet in my office

I'd also like to rip up the carpet in my office. It's extremely dated (read "ugly"), and there's no padding underneath it. The other 2 bedrooms upstairs have refinished pine floors, so I know there's wood under there just waiting for me to find it. Well, okay, so I already found it...

I ripped up a tiny piece in my closet, where no-one can see it, so hopefully S won't read this and know I've been destroying things before my self-imposed 6 month waiting period.

I'd really like to post more (and with more pictures) but we've been cast back into the dark ages and are forced to use dial-up internet. And, to make it worse, the fastest I've been able to connect has been 28.8 kbps. I guess that's one of the perks of living in the middle of nowhere. We're looking into cable, but it's about twice as much as our DSL was. :(


Woohoo! The basement is finished! Well, okay, it's not completely finished, but the painting part is done. Now we'll be able to move on to other important things, like moving stuff down there.

Today was spent finishing up the painting, orgainzing the upstairs, and cleaning up the rental. S is over there now performing the last touch-up cleaning duties.By far, though, the best part of today was being able to finally move things into the family room (aka the basement). Here's a before and after view:

My other great accomplishment: I ripped off those stupid shower doors and bought a shower curtain. Well, not a real curtain, it's just a liner, but it looks lots better.

It's coming along, slowly but surely. I have to go back to work tomorrow, so I'll have less time to put things together for the next 3 days. Thursday through Saturday, I'll be on my regular 3 days off, so I'm hoping to finish things up by then. As long as we're done by Spetember 10, I'll be happy. We'll be having a housewarming/barbeque for our friends and family, and it would be nice not to have to dodge boxes to walk around.

More pictures to come...


Moved in... sorta

As of today, everything but the fish tanks and desk chairs have been moved in. And, even more exciting, some rooms actually look like they should. The kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room are completely finished. Our bedroom is nearly done, we just have some clothes and miscellaneous stuff to put into our drawers. We'd probably have been done sooner if I hadn't kept rearranging the furniture in there. Today, I took it to a new level and moved the bedroom to a different room altogether. I think I'm finished now.

In spite of the clutter, the house feels like home. It's definitely got its idiosyncracies, which we're starting to get used to. Nothing is coming to mind, but every so often, we look at something and think, "huh...?"

I'm exhausted (very little sleep the past few days), and S declared tonight a night off, so I'm off to do something relaxing. Yay!


Almost there...

Nothing new, nothing exciting. Our house looks like something of a rabbit hole; there are aisles through the boxes for traveling from room to room. The only rooms that are still normal looking are the bathroom and kitchen. At least C.C. is enjoying the packing/moving process... You'd think that by 12 she'd have grown out of playing with her tail. Guess not.

This is what happens when I get bored at work

Click to make it bigger...

They stuck me in medical today at work. I'm one of the few people who like it there; you're all by yourself, and you only have to deal with 25 or so inamtes instead of 170. It's so quiet that it may as well be a vacation. I was happy. And bored, since I forgot to bring a book. So whipped out my handy-dandy graph paper and drew what I wanted the exterior of the house to look like. It's not too much work, I don't think. The windows need muntins (mullions?) to add to the Craftsman character of the house. A new front door is pretty simple. Then just face the cement slab with brick and build up the columns. The framework is already in place, we just need to fill it out with some details. The only thing I worry about is what's underneath the faux brick on the house. It's really cheap-looking stuff, so I want it to go ASAP, but I have a feel ing there's no siding underneath it. I guess there's only one way to find out...

In other news, S. was a perfect husband today. He packed a TON of stuff, plus did some housework. and he even found time to run to Barnes and Noble for me. I heart my hubby. :)


T Minus 3 Days... And Counting!

We are officially living in chaos. Our living room is shrinking, and the dining room has already been taken over. Where in the heck did all this crap come from?!

On the up-side I'm much less stressed today, and I'm actually starting to feel excited again. In just 2 days, we will take possession of our house. It's one of the oddest feelings to own a home, but have someone else living in it.. We closed back on the 2nd, but gave the POs 30 days to vacate. Due to the experiences of A and J over at House in Progress, we made sure to include a clause in the contract saying that the house "must be free of all personal property and debris, excluding appliances and useable building materials." As far as I know, all that they are leaving behind is some lumber, siding, and insulation in the loft above the garage. So you hopefully won't be seeing any "What on Earth" entries over here...!


Are we there yet?

Not sure why I'm so stressed out about this whole moving thing. I'm excited to be moving into our own place, but I feel like a giant stress ball... Maybe it's just all the possibilites that are opening up for us now. Ever since I've lived on my own, it's been in old buildings. When I spent a year at St. Mary's, I lived in LeMans Hall, which was built in the '20s. Hardwood floors, old windows, radiators, built-ins, 12' ceilings, transoms...

My first apartment was built in 1902 and was originally a dress store. My apartment was the original living quarters above the store. It still had the original kitchen cabinets, pine floors, plaster, windows, and interior doors.

The house we're in now was built in the '20s, and it has all the original doors, windows, and woodwork. There's beadboard on the porch ceiling. And the bathtub is still here, though it's no longer installed...!

And with all of the old buildings that I've lived in, worked in, and visited, I've wanted to "rescue" them. From neglect, from remuddling, from future owners who will destroy them in the name of "modernism" and "progress"... So I suppose that, for me, the house represents all of the buildings I've wanted to save, but couldn't. It's the opportunity to finally rescue a building.

I'm not sure when my love affair with old buildings began. For as long as I can remember, I've been intrigued with old buildings and the window to the past that they open. They represent a time when life was simpler, though certainly not easier, and when quality craftsmanship was a priority. Even in the tiniest details on utilitarian buildings. Take warehouses for example. Here's a modern warehouse:

And an old one:

The difference is incredible. Even if you have no love of old buildings, you can certainly appreciate the amount of work and attention to detail that went into the older building. Both serve the same purpose, but the old one is able to do so beautifully and uniquely. It is a work of art...

They just don't make 'em like they used to...


Enough about the bathroom...!

I'm driving myself crazy over floorplans and ideas... Can that shower fit or not? Do I really want a clawfoot tub, or would I be just as happy with a drop-in style with a nice subway-tiled surround? I'm unfortunately one of those people who, once an idea is planted in my head, I'll obsess over it until I drive myself (and everyone around me) insane.

So...I'll talk about the downstairs instead. :)

There's not much to do down here, especially not right away. I'm curious about what's under the stick-on ceiling tiles, and I'd like to strip the trim in the living room and rip up the old carpeting. I'm nearly positive that the old pine floors are still under there, and I want to refinish them. There's some mismatched trim on the windows by the stairs that I will fix also. And the ever-present wallpaper...

The PO's put some kind of laminate flooring in the dining room, which I can't figure out. Does that mean the hardwood is gone? I don't want to rip it up for a few years, since it's in excellent shape. I don't particularly like it, but there are other things to worry about right now (like the bathroom...). There's also some more mismatched trim between the dining room and the kitchen. The original walls are for once lacking wallpaper, but they have painted wood paneling intead. It would look good in a country farmhouse, but I'd like something a little more "Craftsman-ish".

And then there's the kitchen. It's carpeted. I don't know why. And of course, it's wallpapered.


Pipe dreams

So... I'm still stuck on the bathroom. I found this great little program at Kohler.com that allows you to design your own bathroom. Unfortunately, all you can use is their products, but it gives you an idea of what can fit in your bathroom and where it would look best. So here's what I've come up with so far...

Now, to me, it looks like I might possibly be able to fit a shower in this bathroom. The question is, would it be too cramped? The bathoom is only about 6.5' by 10' (these are rough measurements; I'll take new ones when we move in), so there's really no other way it could be set up with a separate shower. The only other idea I have is to use a rectangular/square shower enclosure, since those seem to be slightly smaller.


Before & After: The Bathtub

Going back to last weekend... I wanted to post "Before and After" pictures of the bathtub. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of it when it was upsidedown, sunk 2 inches into the dirt... But here's about what it looked like when I flipped it over (minus the cobwebs and loose dirt that I'd already swept out). Ain't she purty?

Twenty minutes later, with some serious elbow grease and the help of Murphy's Oil Soap, I had a rather pleasant surprise: a (fairly) clean bathtub! I still need to get some Lime-A-Way in there, since there are some serious hard water/rust deposits near the drain. I think just about all of it will come off, though. Another surprise was that the porcelain is in near-perfect shape. It looks like someone used abrasive cleaners on it, but there arn't any chips or cracks at all. If our stupid landlord hadn't stuck the tub outside, the exterior would likely be perfect as well.

Now I just need to find some feet and hardware for it. As far as hardware, I'd like something like this, in the polished nickel finish like the inset pic. I love the gooseneck faucet design... :) I'd really, really like to have a separate stand-up shower stall, so that the bathtub can just be a bathtub, but I'm thinking our bathroom is really too small for that. As whoever designed our bathroom has taught us, there's only so much you can cram into a 6' by 10' space.