Sunday, April 24, 2016

Stairwell Before and After

Once upon a time our stairwell was narrow, dark and fully walled off from the rest of the house.
When we gutted the upstairs last summer we ripped out the walls surrounding the stairs and built a new, wider set of stairs.  The temporary stair rail has served its purpose since August, but with the rest of the first floor finished it was time for something a little more elaborate.
We don't like the more ornate turned balusters and newel posts that are readily available from the big box stores.  And the maple ones I could custom order were over our budget.  So Luke and I figured out what materials we would need and I picked up a couple 12' 6/4 boards to work with.
I usually assist Luke with this kind of project.  He has much more experience and I'm happy to just be his helper, but that weekend he was busy designing our sprinkler system (and watching march madness) so I ended up trying most of this on my own. I was able to lam the boards together without too much trouble but using the router table to create the flutes and rounded edges was stressful.  I haven't done a lot of router work and one mistake could mean having to start over.
The new railing is both sturdier and looks nicer than the 2x4's.  The balusters are powder coated aluminum intended for outdoor use, but we like the clean look they give the interior of the house.
As a finishing touch I finally installed the tread lights that were roughed in last summer.
Obviously they won't be completely finished until we carpet the basement but they're good enough for now.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Cabinetry Is Hard, So I Cheated

When we redesigned the floor plan last year we moved the guest room closet wall to make space for a linen closet at the end of the hallway.  But built in cabinets weren't a priority so we made due with cheap plastic shelves.
I was initially planning to build a cabinet completely from scratch but then I found an oak utility cabinet on Craigslist for $85, still new in the box.
 At 36"x84" it was too small to fill the hallway but it was a starting point and I figured I could finish this for about half the cost of the materials I was going to need for a custom build.
We need half of the linen closet to store our vacuum so I built a divider down the center of the cabinet.  This gave me a chance to finally use the shelf peg jig I bought from Rockler for our last house and never needed.
Luke and I moved the frame into place then I added filler pieces to either side.  To make it look like a single unit I built a small face frame, attached it above the main cabinet then added some leftover crown molding from the kitchen cabinets.
It took three coats of primer and two coats of cabinet paint to get the factory-finish look I  wanted.
Luke was out of town while I did most of this project.  He was surprised by how well the finished product turned out.
Now that we have actual space to store the linens I'll have to figure out where I stored all of them.  We don't have a lot of demand for cloth napkins and bed skirts so they've been boxed up since we moved in.
Utility cabinet                       $85
Lumber (for top face frame)  $11
Nickel Register                     $10
Shelf Pegs                              $6
Total                                   $112

I had expected a custom-built cabinet to run $200-$250 for materials so this came in a half the expected cost  Even though I have quite a few hours into this project it would have taken much longer to build from scratch.
(These are our costs only and will not necessarily reflect an accurate cost for anyone else to do it.  We already had the equipment, primer, paint and knobs on hand from other projects).  

Friday, March 18, 2016

How To Fake a Fireplace

I'm loving our new open floor plan, but the living room lost its focal point when we removed the ugly wood stove (nobody said the focal point has to be attractive).
After removing some walls we were left with few options for where to draw the eye. The best choice was the 10' wall between the living room and master bedroom.  I neglected to get a good picture before demo.  This shot from what eventually became the kitchen is the best I can find.

We moved the coat closet to the hallway which left this 10' wall as a perfectly blank canvas.

We didn't have enough space for a real fireplace or a gas unit so we opted for a wall mounted electric fireplace.  In order to get the built in-fireplace look I started by tiling the wall to look like a stone surround (the color is blotchy because it's wet from my tile saw).
After a few months with just the tile on the wall Luke and I built a custom mantle and lintels.  I did the design work but Luke is the one who actually knows what he is doing.  He did the real work and I helped out with sanding and the unskilled portions of the assembly.
We used hickory for the surround but decided to try a chestnut stain to help it blend with the darker color of the floors and our furniture.
Eventually we put the whole thing it place.  Luke and I are a little biased, but we think it looks great and provides a perfect focal point for the room.  (The fireplace has a flame effect but it doesn't show up in daylight photos.)
The whole project cost a total of $275 for the fireplace, tile and surround.  As long as you don't consider the many hours involved in building the custom mantle it was well worth the trouble and expense.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Starting on the landscaping

A few weeks ago our yard looked like this.  That pile of dirt has been there since we excavated driveway almost two years ago.
Now that we are finally ready to do something about the yard we gave away the fence on Craigslist.  I was surprised by how many people wanted an old fence that needed some serious work.  Within a few hours I found someone who would remove the fence and haul it away.  Free materials for him, less work for me.
We found a contractor who was willing to spread the dirt, remove the large rocks and put a 2% slope on the yard for $389, less than we would have spent just to rent the equipment.  Plus the results are so much better than we could have accomplished on our own.
 Now that the yard is level we need to install the sprinkler system, bring in top soil and get some grass started.  Our excavation guy will be back next weekend to do some work in the front yard.  I'm sure our neighbors are breathing a sigh of relief.



Monday, February 29, 2016

Big changes, and not just to the house

Progress on the house has been slow but that's about to change. I recently left my job and will be taking several months off to work on the house full time before searching for a new position.  We're in the fortunate position of having the house paid off and Luke's job covers our bills and leaves us with enough leftover every month to continue buying materials (albeit at a slower pace).  

This is a major change for me, but I'm excited about some time away from a desk job and I have no shortage of projects.  Here are just a few of the things I will be working on over the next few months:

Trimming out the first floor and refinishing the doors
Building a linen cabinet in the hallway
Building a stair railing (apparently this one isn't quite up to code)
Building a back deck
Landscaping
Finishing the laundry room
Building a basement bathroom
Hopefully having a more time to work on the house will result in more posts with progress.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Kitchen Finished

Progress on the kitchen has been slow.  We've been busy with work, travel and the holidays, but mostly we've just been lazy and the kitchen hasn't been a priority.  Now that the house has heat the pressure to get the job done is off.  But we did manage to finish the kitchen which means we're cooking and actually inviting people over for dinner.

Before - Even if you look past the 70's finish materials the kitchen was too small at 8x'9'.
After- Stealing space from the bathroom and adding a cantilevered addition nearly doubled the square footage.
Before - The wall between the kitchen and living room made the kitchen feel isolated from the rest of the house.
After - The new open floor plan makes all the rooms seem larger and has made the kitchen the hub of the house.
Before - The "dining room" was an awkward space between the living room and patio doors.
After - Moving the stairwell freed up space for a table without blocking the basement stairs.  Not that we ever eat at the dining room table now that we have the breakfast bar.
The actual cost of the kitchen is a little fuzzy because the materials used for the addition were lumped in with roofing and siding costs.  My best guest is about $6500 for the kitchen project, not cheap but certainly not bad for a kitchen.  We're continuing to work on doors and trim for the rest of the first floor. Hopefully I'll be able to show off some other finished space soon. 

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Walls, Floors and Heat. We've Been Busy!

It's been a while since I've posted any photos.  Last month I took a week off of work to finish the drywall then Luke and I installed the floors.  Somehow that didn't seem photo worthy.  Anyway, the house is looking a lot better, but more importantly, we have heat.  The radiant heat system is working beautifully and it's so nice to wake up to a warm house.

We finished the heating system on Wednesday night and used the rest of the long weekend to start on the kitchen.  After the addition we had a decent amount of space to work with, at least compared to the 8'x9' space we started with.
We found time to assemble and install the cabinets, but still have a lot of finish work to do.
We don't have counters yet, but we're already cooking in the new kitchen.  After three and a half months without a kitchen a spiral ham from Costco counts as a gourmet treat.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Walls up

It's been over a month since I posted any photos.  It's not just burnout or spending way too many hours at my day job.  It's that we are at the slow and tedious part of the remodel.  The last month has been spent running wiring, grinding glue off the floors, hanging drywall and insulating the attic.  We still don't have a heating system, but having the attic and walls insulated makes enough of a difference that our little milkhouse heaters can keep it comfortable.
 Having moved most of our interior walls created a lot of extra corners to tape.
Our current project is to tape all the drywall.  The walls aren't too difficult because most of the drywall is new, but patching the holes in the ceiling is a slow and messy process.  I took a week off from work to get the taping, texturing and painting done.  Hopefully I'll have some good progress to show for my nine days off.  

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

The End of Demo

Labor day certainly lived up to its name this year.  Luke and I arranged for a four day weekend to finish gutting the upstairs.  We spent the first two days working on the floors.  The subfloor is 5/8" ply overlaid with glued-down particle board.
The particle board does not work with hardwood floors or our radiant heat system so we pulled it all up in 2' sections.
This left a lot of glue on the floors so we'll have to rent a floor sander to clean it all up before installing the hardwood flooring.  But the floors were a cakewalk compared to our other project. Our attic was insulated with shredded wood that had a low r value and was not safe for contact with can lights.  After much debate we decided the best way to remove the insulation was to cut out the drywall down the middle of the house and rake it out through the hole.  This was the messiest project we've ever done.
Twelve hours and seventy trash bags later we removed the last of the sawdust.  I have to finish the electrical work (which is made much easier with the attic empty) then we can start putting this mess back together.


Friday, September 04, 2015

Two Years In

It’s been two years since I walked into our house for the first time.  It was Labor Day weekend and we were scheduled to close on the house in an hour.  I had never been in the house until closing day.  Homes in our price range were selling quickly and I was living 70 miles when Luke found a newly-listed ranch house.  He looked at it during his lunch hour the following day and put in an offer immediately.  The house had been on the market for 48 hours when our offer was accepted.  It was not the only offer; it wasn’t even the only full price offer so I think we made the right choice in such a quick decision.  I had some pictures of the house, but I didn’t actually see it in person until closing day five weeks later.  When I walked in the door for the first time it was a crowded and ugly as I had expected from the pictures.  
The rooms were small and boxy, the finishing materials were cheap and the whole house was dirty and dated.  I had been prepared to hate the house and I was not disappointed.  But two years have made a difference.  I still miss living in Butte and the beautiful house we had there, but I don't mind coming home to this.  
Yes, it's a bit of a disaster, but the house feels much more open and cheery than it did before.  Maybe it's because there's hope for it now.

The narrrow, walled-in stairwell is now open and nearly a foot wider.
The wasted space in the master bedroom is gone
I made the room a little shorter to add a walk in closet with a pocket door (left)
Since the upstairs us pretty much the gutted shell of a house we have moved into the basement.  Our current bedroom isn't pretty, but being below ground keeps the room nice and dark for some great sleep.
 I temporarily converted the future bathroom into our kitchen.  Thanks to the toaster oven and electric skillet we're not starving yet. A few leftover pieces of shower tile on top of the folding table make for a decent prep surface.  A 2x4 and a chunk of house wrap keep the toilet separate from the kitchen
 These cabinets will eventually end up in our laundry room but for now they make a great pantry and coffee station.
 The living quarters aren't great, but they'll do for the next few months.
It doesn't look like much, but living in the basement is surprisingly comfortable.  The house has no heat, but the basement stays a much more consistent temperate than the first floor.  After a few days of living in the basement it doesn't even seem weird any more...it's just home.