Saturday, October 29, 2011

Why it Takes So Long to Remodel an Old House

Friends wonder why it's taking so long to remodel our new old house. After all, they say, it's only 1500 square feet. To answer that, let me tell you about a typical day.

We are still commuting here, from our home about 32 miles away from the new old house. By the time we get up, have coffee, pack work clothes, pack anything special we want for lunch, pack any tools we need that aren't already there, several hours have elapsed. It is Saturday, so on the way in we decide to stop at a local farmer's market to pick up some fresh veggies. Then, since I've had three huge mugs of coffee AND half the contents of a travel mug, we have to stop at a food mart to use the restroom. While there, we peruse the breakfast items, and since I haven't eaten yet, I grab a sausage kolache, Husband gets a breakfast taco and we get back on the road. Today we are lucky; we don't have to stop to buy paint and we don't have to get gasoline since we did that on the way home last night.

We arrive, and realize that our new heater isn't working correctly in the house. After some aggravation and ponderations, and some tests involving a stop watch and peering into the gas jets, Husband realizes that the code on the fancy digital thermostat means that the filters are clogged—our unit has two. Both of them are removed, we write down the sizes, and Husband calls the local hardware store to see if they have these in stock. They say they do, so we plan on a trip there to pick some up. It's getting cold here, and we won't be able to work in the house without the heater.

Since it's the annual city wide hazardous waste clean-up day, Husband goes through the garage and gathers up all the old oil paint, machine oil, paint stripper, etc. that was left behind by former residents. We don't want it, so he loads it into the car. Meanwhile, I'm watering the plants. Back in the car we go, to the hardware store, where we buy filters, out to the waste site, unload the car, then decide since it's 11:30, we'll have lunch out at a nearby Chinese buffet. We do so.

Back to the house an hour or so later. Husband tries to install the filter, but realizes it is 1/2” too large, throws a hissy fit, jumps in the car and races back to the hardware store. Meanwhile, I'm digging holes for flower bulbs and keep the phone handy just in case I have to go bail him out of jail. He was REALLY mad. He comes back, empty handed. At least he got a refund and I didn't have to quit my gardening and go bail him out. Apparently the girl there said she checked the sizes, but thought a meager 1/2” didn't matter. Riiiiiight, missy—this is a top of the line, high-tech computerized piece of pretty darned fancy machinery...1/2” is gonna make a difference. So, we still don't have a filter for the heater.

Husband goes to work on the new kitchen light fixture, which we discover is made for houses built in 2011 with recessed lighting, NOT houses built in 1930 with two wires dangling from the ceiling. There is some finagling to do to make it work. This takes time, new holes drilled, new wiring, something to do with using longer screws, cutting away of the wallboard, more ponderations, etc. It seems that to insert the new type light bulbs, you have to use a special wrench unless your fingers are the size of toothpicks. Luckily, it was provided but it looks like something a gynecologist would use for an exam. With this special tool, it takes twice as long to insert the bulbs. No longer are bulbs just screwed in; they must be inserted and twisted while standing upside down on a ladder. I go outside to dig a hole for a grapevine. Husband finally gets the bulbs in, climbs up to the 9 ½' ceiling and installs the light.

By now it's 3:30 p.m. and time to paint the ceiling of the dining room. This was our “To Do or Else” job for today. I check my e-mail while Husband paints. By now I have a major headache for some reason and don't feel like doing much that involves ladders, nail guns or grout. Just as well, it would not be safe. I ponder going to the Dollar Store for Halloween candy. I think I can manage to drive the ½ mile there and back.

At 6 p.m. it's getting cold in the house and we start packing up to leave. Since we didn't get the filter before, we have to stop at a Big Box store on the way home to see if they have one in stock. By 8 p.m. we are back home, exhausted. We eat a hasty dinner of scrambled eggs then fall asleep after reading two pages of a book.

Next morning, the cat wakes us up at 5 a.m. We lay there and our minds start racing. I'm thinking about the advantages vs. the disadvantages of Formica vs. Wilsonart, and Husband is wondering what we can leave out of the whole process so we can move in earlier. Neither of us can get back to sleep, so we finally get up, and it starts all over.

So please don't ask me again why it takes so long to remodel an old house.

Copyright 2011 by Bobbi A. Chukran

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Kitchen Floor Progress Report

Although it seems like we'll never finish our 1930's cottage remodeling project, this week we've had some major progress because the kitchen and dining room tile installation has been started! This is a multi-step process because of the fact that the house is on a pier-and-beam foundation, and unless you're careful about the materials you use, the tiles can crack later on when the house shifts (and it will shift).

You can see in a previous photo that we had horrible old sheet vinyl flooring in the kitchen, with a layer of 1950's linoleum under it. We were happy to find out that we didn't have to remove all that before putting in the kitchen tiles, BUT we did have to put a layer of Hardiebacker cement board on top first.

These 3x5' sheets of cement board weigh about 30-lbs. each, and have to be installed over the vinyl with thin-set mortar then screwed every few inches with heavy duty outdoor deck screws. We got the same advice from everybody we talked to...basically, "Glue it and screw it." LOL. So we did--or more accurately, Rudy did. I was busy working on my new vampire comedy play Kindle e-book. After they were screwed down, the joints in between were sealed with more thin-set mortar and adhesive wallboard tape.

FINALLY, we were ready to lay tile. After much deliberation, we choose an inexpensive neutral porcelain tile from Lowe's and are laying it in a running bond (or brick) pattern so it will be more interesting.

Two hours later:

If you've ever laid your own tile, you know what a backbreaking job it is. We've done a lot of tile over the years, so decided to do this job ourselves, too. I'm going to use the same tile in the bathroom.

Here's a photo of the dining room looking into it from the kitchen and living room area. The tile will continue into there.

Since my "office" was in a corner of the dining room, I had to move to the utility room because of the tiling. Here's a photo of my new temporary office, in a corner of the utility room. Love those windows!

Although the front/entry room was to be my office, I'm rethinking that. I've been sitting here for several days, and really enjoy the view to the back garden that I don't get from the front, where I see the porch and the street. Nice view, eh?

If I can negotiate with the cats, who will be making good use of the utility room (their litter box will be in a former coat closet), I might add a small desk or table back here permanently, and just rove around with the laptop, depending on the season. Why not?

And speaking of the garden, we did get some rain, and all things green are popping out all over. More rosebushes are blooming:

And more mysterious flowers have popped up. Are they Japanese lilies? Rain lilies?

Whatever they are, I'm seeing them bloom all over Taylor right now, so there must have been some kind of flower bulb sharing thingy going on at one time.

NOTE: A friend just identified them as Schoolhouse Lilies (because they usually bloom in August when school starts again), or Oxblood Lilies. Thanks, Debbie!

My little veggie garden is doing well...potted peppers and eggplants continue to bloom and set, new greens are growing well, and my chocolate cherry tomato bush has a bunch of tiny green 'maters on it. Nice!

Until next time....happy trails from Texas, where it's 88-degrees!

bobbi c.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Rain, blessed rain!

When I went to bed last night, I knew that the forecast was for rain overnight. I didn't really believe it, though, until I was awakened at 6:30 a.m. by the sound of rain plopping on the metal roof. YAY! FINALLY! By the time we got to the cottage, we'd had 1 1/2" here, and it continued to rain throughout the morning.

I can't even count the number of birds who have come out to cavort in the cooler weather, and splash in the puddles and birdbaths I have out for them. This morning I've seen grackles, one hummingbird (still here), bluejays, mockingbirds, sparrows, chickadees and some unidentified yellow bird (a finch?). The squirrels are doing a frantic "find the nut, clean it, dig a hole in a blur, put it in, pat the earth flat" then repeat game, which I hope results in some young pecan trees a few years from now. Our new pet squirrel, Basil, is especially good at the patting the ground flat part.

A few surprises in the garden....the snails that I wrote about previously are out in full force, this time sliming their way across the dead lawn in search of something green, no doubt. I'm perfecting my snail-stomping, and found that although putting my whole weight on them does nothing, an old hoe pounced down on them will smoosh the shell with a satisfying CRACK. Much easier than bending down to pick up each of the little buggers. Of course, if I do that, then the neighbors only think I'm picking up pecans, a sanctioned activity. If they knew I was collecting snails instead, well, then, who knows what they'd think! And you KNOW how I worry about what the neighbors think. AHAHAHAHA!

A good surprise was this tiny white rose that was blooming on a small bush at the side of the house. There are several of these, but most have been stripped bare by the (guess what?) snails. My camera refused to focus well enough to get a good photo (what's new?), but I was able to get this one:

The flower literally is the size of my thumbnail, and the rosehips are about the size of a small peppercorn. Are these fairy roses? Are they miniature Popcorn roses? Here's a photo of the bush, which shows how sprawling it is. Overall, it's probably no taller than 12".

Another nice surprise were the green leaves from a double yellow daylily that succumbed to the heat right before we closed on the house:

In site of the drought, which is now the "drought of record" for Texas, things are still alive. My chocolate cherry tomato plant has tiny English pea-sized tomatoes on it, I have eggplants and bell peppers to eat (not tons, but enough), and my fledgling fall garden of greens is happy.

Right now, with this rain, we're ALL happy....and especially, the snails are happy.

Happy trails,

bobbi c.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Kitchen Remodel...a progress report

Dear friends,

I've been putting this off, because I literally have thousands of photos to sort through, process, put in order, resize, clean-up, etc. That takes an incredible amount of time, although it's fun for me to go back just three months to see what progress we've made. Today I'll share some kitchen photos. There are more, and I'll add those later.

Now that I have wireless internet here, maybe I can keep up with the photos. We shall see!

To start, here are a few photos of the KITCHEN BEFORE:

On first glance, it's not in bad shape. The Shaker style cabinets are sturdy, handmade, and really only need a lot of scrubbing, priming and painting. The old Formica countertop (in a pattern that I recognize from my childhood) is good, although will have to be removed for new plumbing.

This photo shows the rest of the kitchen, looking in from the back door and dining area. On the left is an old frig. On the opposite wall is an old gas range. On top of that is the largest vent I've ever seen, and a built-in cabinet around it. The wall is covered with some faux Masonite-type product stamped with a ceramic tile design.

On the same wall as the frig, beyond it on the left, is a small pantry door. To the left of the stove is the tiny door leading into the original dining room.

The upper cabinets go all the way up to the 9' 6" ceiling. Yes, that's a strange height! My plan is to leave all the upper cabinets in place, remove the upper doors and use the space for storage of my antique bowls and such. Hopefully, that's a place that the cats can't reach.

This shows the door leading from the former dining room into the kitchen at the left. The other door leads out into a hallway. The dining room was enormous, and has the original longleaf pine floors that are in great shape. So we've decided to turn it into our living room, which will be off the kitchen. An opening will be made in the wall behind where the stove sits.

To the left of the frig is a small broom closet which we'll be extending to make a very large walk-in pantry. This will also add some wall space to the left of the frig for a piece of free-standing furniture, or perhaps more built-in storage.

This is the door to the original pantry, to the right of the frig. It wasn't very large, so we decided to open it up to the hallway on the other side, turn it into the AC closet, then close up the opening on the kitchen side. After that's done, we'll add another section of cabinets there, and move the stove and vent to that wall.

Once the stove was removed (hauled away by a young woman who sold the metal for scrap), I was able to start peeling off the old fake tile. This was not an easy task, since it had been glued down back in 1960 with some nasty mastic. I made sure to wear gloves (that stuff is SHARP!) and a HEPA air filter mask since the mastic flaked off into the air. Luckily, the tile board wasn't a problem, and broke into nice pieces without any dust.

Here, you can see that now the pantry is open to the hallway on the other side.

I went to work removing the trim from around the windows. We weren't sure if there was water damage around the window sill or not. Turns out, there wasn't. I got another nice suprise...the original planks were behind there. I plan on painting them, adding some small trim, making the sill larger instead of encasing it like the original.

As you can see, the window trim is HUGE. It wasn't easy removing the nails that have been there for over 80 years.

Here's a photo AFTER removing the trim, showing the amazing pine boards underneath.

Here's a photo of Rudy, standing, staring and pondering. We both did that a LOT. We're designing as we go, NOT gutting the place, trying to keep as much of the original charm as possible.

We removed the vent cabinets, vent and huge iron pipe in the attic. The cabinets will be reconstructed and used elsewhere--perhaps in the greenhouse.

Atter that was done, we were able to open up the wall between the kitchen and the new living room (former dining room).

You can see it is a mess of wires dangling down from the attic and open walls.

The pantry door was removed, and filled in with planks that were removed from the opening to the new bedroom closet. Since the doors were the same width, it was fairly easy with just a bit of trimming to use the wood in this way.

We still have quite a bit of work to do in the kitchen, but I'll share more photos later!

bobbi c.