Monday, August 27, 2007

Week 2


When facing a project, demo is the most exciting. It's fun to knock things down and start to see the space as it's going to be. But oh how soon we forget how much work the clean up is.

Chuck started the day by taking down two 4' x 8' brick walls with a sledgehammer. No easy feat, to say the least. His last few swings revealed a hole to the outside. Love it.

Then, onto the task we have been dreading. We took on our old nemesis, Plaster & Lath, and we got our asses kicked. Smashed fingers, cut legs, a bump on the noggin from a falling piece of plaster. And my arms feel like jelly. There is no easy way to go about it. Chuck started by trying to cut the wall out with a circular saw, but it was sparking from hitting concrete, and we were afraid something was going to catch fire. So we went back to the old fashioned way - a hammer, a crow bar and some good old-fashioned elbow grease. But first I had to vacu-seal the area because on top of the plaster was a layer of green lead paint. Then we chipped away the layer of drywall on top. We had to stay in the room until we were finished, then strip at the door and put our clothes into a trash bag. Good times.

The thing I ALWAYS forget to take into consideration when planning a schedule for our renovation projects is that regardless of how many hours there are in a day, there are only so many hours our bodies can handle of back breaking work. We finally knocked off in mid-lead-paint-clean up because we could physically do no more.

The good news is, this is the worst it's gonna be. From here on out, we're going to start re-building! Tomorrow is a wash because I had a last minute commercial shoot pop up that will put me out of commission all day. Chuck is going to use the time to catch up on some house stuff.

Oh, and no word from T all weekend. Go figure. We're already shopping for a replacement.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Week One con't - Sunday thru Friday


I don't have any pics today because I forgot to take them. But really, there wasn't really anything picture worthy. We got up around 7:30 and went to work on building the fence. This project was long overdue, as someone had removed the rotting gates that were there and exposed our back yard to a main street and therefore any straggler who wanted to check out the back of our house. The fence only took about 2 hours. This was good practice, since we have to build a much larger version around our yard.

Next, I went to Lowes to buy a lead test kit. Before we started taking down the green plaster, we wanted to see if lead was present. It was. No picture, so visualize a bright pink stain on old green paint. Not great news, but expected. This meant we got to procrastinate further on taking down that wall. That was great news.

Poor Chuck wasn't feeling so hot, and upon taking his temperature, found out it was 102. So we both took a nap.

Around 1:30pm, T the handyman showed up. We were hoping he was coming to work, but when he arrived in non-work clothes, we figured out that wasn't the case. So we decided to map out a plan to continue, now that we had some of the walls down. I didn't mention this before, but T isn't very easy to talk to. He has this non-stop talking, one thought goes right into another, cyclical thing that he does, and never quite gets to the point. Or arrives at a completely different point. We were starting to wrap up what I believed to be a productive conversation, and we asked him about his availability.

T: "Well, I don't know if I'm going to be available because I have this big project in New Orleans...." this story goes on for 20 minutes.

We politely listen, as he tells us about a historical renovation that he was hoping to do. I guess it was mildly relevant because we have an old house too. Or it proved his passion for working on old houses. Or something like that. I was just trying to get along. I glanced over at Chuck at one point, and saw the whites of his eyes. I don't think he noted the relevancy.

At the end of the monologue, I asked, "So you may not be available to do our job because you're leaving soon to do that project?"

T: "Naw, it probly won't happen for a couple of months..."

OK, because you just something about leaving next week.

So then we went into the bedroom to talk about what we were going to do in there. Out of nowhere, T announces that our floor is sloping (about 2 inches total, starting from the middle of the house), and we should probably jack it up. I felt waves of panic emanate from Chuck's direction. I think he actually feared that I would be on board with this.

Emilie: "But T, won't jacking up our floors crack our walls and floor?"

T: "No because you see... (here begins the cyclical explanation that ends with)... well, it probably would crack the drywall. And the molding. And the floor."

WHAT?!?!?!? Old houses settle dude! If we were walking downhill to our bedroom every night you might have a point, but we're going to do thousands of dollars of damage to raise the back half of the house 2 INCHES? You are insane.

Needless to say, we shut that down quickly. But now that I think about it, he got us so off track, I don't believe that we even talked about the thing that we went into the bedroom to discuss.

T asked if he should show up tomorrow for work, and we said we would talk about our schedule and call him later. What we needed to discuss is if we would actually be using T. After T left, Chuck told me that a lot of the info. T gave me differed from their initial conversation. We were becoming a little wary, but we had committed to using him, so we decided to give it a try. He seems to know everything there is to know about carpentry, he's just really hard to talk to. We don't have anyone else in our back pocket, and we really want to get moving on this.

I called T to see if he could work next Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

T: "Whoa, that's a long time from now. I don't know if I can commit to that..."

Good lord.

I asked him to let us know by Wednesday. So we may or may not have a contractor next weekend.

Chuck took the truck back to his mom's, and I stayed home to bust up the tile floor. It was much easier than when we had to take up the same tile in the other bathroom. All in all, it only took me about an hour, and the only sucky part was the clean up. That tile is heavy! 8 contractors bags later, I was worn out and ready to call it a night.

We were hoping to have all the demo done this weekend, and because of our brick and plaster obstacles, that didn't happen. We thought we would try to get the lead paint removal done one night this week, but that never happened.


T called to tell us he couldn't work because he was participating in a dart tournament. Shit.


T left Chuck a message that he could work after all. Which is good, because I'm starting to stress about how long everything is taking!!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Week One - Saturday

Day one! We're VERY EXCITED. We have 2 big projects today. Firstly, we're having our back yard cleared and graded, and simultaneously we'll start demo on the bathroom. And then tonight there is a Blue Grass festival in Oakhurst Village, about a mile from our house, which we're planning to go to. Gotta make time for a little fun!!

We'd planned on getting up and meeting Zack, the guy who was going to grade the yard. Then, Trip 1 (of many more to come) to Home Depot. Then start the bathroom demo. Zack was a little late, so Chuck started examining the demo area.

I ran out to grab breakfast and stuff for lunch, and when I got home, Chuck had already taken down the first wall.

So we started hacking away at the drywall. All was going swimmingly, until we ran into this:

What appears to be innocuous old lady wallpaper is actually covering up a brick wall, which used to be part of the exterior of our house.

On the other side of the wall, under the drywall, was this:

The dreaded Plaster & Lath wall, which I hoped to never encounter again. Experience dictated that the green paint on the plaster was probably lead paint, so that halted the great progress we were making on the demo. We're gonna have to figure that out later.

We spent the rest of the afternoon doing cleanup - the WORST part of demo! Chuck gets a gold star for his thrifty idea - to put all of our demo rubble into Zack's dump truck. Zack kindly made room, and saved us multiple pain-in-the-ass trips to the dump. YAY ZACK!

Here's a before, during, and after of the yard. We are FINALLY going to have a backyard, instead of a weed infested clay pit. I can't tell you how happy that makes me!!!!

By the time all of this was finished, it was 7pm. We still have to go to Home Depot to buy supplies for a small fence we are building in the morning, and we need to pick up Chuck's mom's truck to get the stuff home. We decided to divide and conquer - Chuck drove the 40 minute round trip to pick up the truck, while I did the Home D shopping. It saved us about an hour, which is good because we were TIRED. Blue Grass Festival? Not so much. We got home around 8pm, and while I cooked dinner, Chuck sunk the post for the fence. A glass of wine each and a big ibuprofen later, we fell into bed.

House renovation is fun!! Right.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Gearing up

*general note: Since I'm already behind on my posts, I'm going to date them for when they should have been posted. This will likely result in my writing in present and past tense within the same post. Please pretend like you don't notice, while I try to get caught up!

The master bath plan is multi-faceted. I will use pictures to help explain. The area that will become the master bath is an old addition to the house. It has a sloping floor, which we presumed was because the addition was built over a concrete patio which was sloped for rain run-off. The previous owner walled it up, creating a half bath on the left side and a closet on right. The middle section is just a tile walkway with french doors out to a rickety old deck.

He didn't bother to level the floor, which is annoying.

I guess this was intended to be the master suite. We made it the guest room.

So part of the plan requires creating a doorway from our bedroom (which is next door) into the new master bath. Our bedroom has a measly little closet, which shares a wall with the guest room. We decided while we were at it, we might as well widen the closet to extend to the bathroom door, to create a proper master bedroom situation.

This will shave some square footage off of the guest room, but it's a decent sized room, so it's not that big of a deal. We're going to add about 2 feet to the top of the new closet as well, for badly needed extra storage. The plan is to install a sliding library ladder to access the top storage.

We priced them and they're pretty expensive, so we may have to make our own. We also will need to custom build sliding doors to pretty much cover that whole wall. I'm sure that will be pretty cheap!

We've been poring over magazines and books, trying to determine the "look" of the new master bath. The house sort of commands retro, which is very *IN* right now, but we already did that in our other bathroom renovation, so we both agreed we'd like to try to steer clear of white floors and wainscoting.

We're both big fans of the frameless shower doors ($$$), which kind of commands a more modern look. We even discussed going full-on Asian Spa, with lots of wood and glass. Chuck made the good point, though, that technically we should be creating a cohesive "master suite", which includes our bedroom. Asian doesn't really work in there. Our furniture falls under the antique category, and crown molding isn't exactly modern. So we're struggling to come up with a more eclectic look, which a friend of mine termed "Retro Asian Fusion" Love it! But we have no idea what it looks like yet.

As usual, the plan is to do as much work as we can ourselves. But there are a few things out of our comfort zone (namely plumbing, electricity and framing), so Chuck met with "T"(not his real name), a handyman/carpenter on Wednesday to go over the plan. He's reasonably priced and seems to have a passion for fixing up old houses, so we hired him. He sent us this:

We start demo tomorrow!!

First Bathroom Remodel pics

It occurred to me while writing my last post that I never posted finished pics of our first bathroom remodel.

Here is the before:

And here's the finished product:

Unfortunately, it's so small, it's impossible to get it all in one shot. Here's the sink area

And here's the linen closet (which I left blurry cuz it's a bit of a mess):

We still have some finishing touches left to do. We need a threshold for the door and the closet door, and I need to touch up the walls around the closet where the stain bled onto the paint. I learned how to properly apply stain after this project. The closet used to have a door, which was one of our early stripping projects. But I came to find out the panels in the middle were plywood, so it wasn't even worth my efforts to strip and stain. I'll probably end up putting up a curtain or something. Someday...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Back in Business

I can't believe it's been almost a year since I posted! That goes to show you how much longer things take than you think they will. It's not that we've done nothing in the last 11 months, just nothing that I've been motivated enough to sit down and blog about. However, I just started a full-time job and I have a bit more time at work for personal stuff than I did as a freelancer. Not a lot, but at least enough that I can write the occasional post. Everything in moderation, right?

We made a trek to Ohio over Memorial day weekend, and drove back some furniture that my Grandma gave us. My very favorite new addition to our household is this sideboard that we've repurposed into a bar.

My Grandpa's parents bought this in the 1930's, and it has been a fixture in my grandparents' house since I can remember. My very dear Grandpa passed away last year, so it means so much to me that it is now in our house. We planted this dogwood for him in our front yard, and we call it Charlie. I'm so excited to watch it grow.

We bought it to complement our oddly-shaped-cute-little front yard that Chuck slaved away on last fall. It looked a lot better before this summer's drought, and the subsequent watering ban.

I was initially really bummed about the watering ban, b/c we had just paid for and planted a bunch of perennials that were just getting started. However, crafty Chuck rigged this up to our A/C condensation tube, as an environmentally responsible way to water all of the plants in the yard. It fills up every day and a half, and cost about $20 to make.

More function than fashion, but it certainly serves its purpose. He also made one in the back that connects to our dehumidifier in the basement, and drains outside into a bucket on the back patio. So it's a little more labor intensive than the hose, but we've got more water than we ever need. And it's free! That being said, somehow, our water bill has gone up. Please explain this to me.

The one big project we finally did do (did do?) was to remodel our sunroom, which was very very exciting. This is how it originally looked when we moved in:

Revamping was actually a 2 step process, that we began sometime ago. We started out envisioning a cottage style sun porch, and we were almost there. Our last big thing was to install the big whitewashed plank floors a la the decadent pages of Cottage Living . So we painted the walls a pale green, I made little cottage curtains with fabric from my $1/yd fabric plac, and we started researching how to create and install the floors. This is how it was shaping up:

This was my 2nd attempt at pale green walls, and as much as I love the color, it just doesn't seem to work on walls. Maybe it's the shades I choose? Truthfully, I had chosen the colors to complement the red-headed step child of all of our furniture - my prized 60's chaise lounge covered in chartreuse crushed velvet.

That would be me on the chaise. It's another nostalgic family piece that I LOVE and Chuck HATES. My other Grandfather was a wood worker, and in the early 1970's, he found this on the side of the road, fixed it up and reupholstered it with the aforementioned fabric. Aside from minimal wear and tear, it looks exactly the same as when this picture was taken, and I convinced my dad to hand it over to me when I lived in LA. I've had it in 4 different houses, and it has never really fit anywhere. So essentially, I designed the sunroom to give my beloved chaise a home. However, during one of our house pow-wows, Chuck and I both agreed that the sunroom wasn't really turning out how we wanted it to. After minimal brainstorming, we decided to funk it up a bit and move completely away from the style of our house - instead, creating a little homage to our years in LA. With terracotta on our minds, we rushed to Floor and Decor, and found the perfect tile - on Super-Sale, nonetheless!!

Chuck's brother Scott helped us install the floor, and even brought his own tile saw to do the job. He's been a tremendous amount of help on many of our projects, and we owe him huge!

Chuck wouldn't let me go full-on Frida Kahlo with the decorating scheme, so we decided on a neutral cream for the walls, and some mexican-inspired accent colors. We bought some sunroom-esque furniture at Ikea, with the intent of customizing it by (me) sewing new covers for the cushions. I found some upholstery fabric for the chairs at my $1/yd store, so the cushions should cost about $6 in fabric and probably around 60 hours of my labor. (I estimated the savings on the fabric for just the 2 chairs to be upwards of $100 which makes me very very happy - I still haven't found the fabric I want to use for the couch). I set about making a half-size sample cushion, as this was my first foray into box cushions with piping. It took me a whole day.

Yeah, it's a little lopsided, but I figured out what I did wrong. This was 6 months ago, and I haven't even started on the big ones. Sigh.

One day,while shooting a Georgia Lottery commercial in the breakroom of one, I discovered the FABULOUS Value City . I spent half of my day sneaking out of the shoot to shop, and came across the blinds we wanted at $15 a piece (regularly $40+), so I snapped those up. One of the pieces of furniture that we got from my Grandma was a pie-safe with a punched tin front, which has a mexican flair, so we put that in there. And lastly, we bought some plants and a woven ottoman/side table from C&B with wedding gift juice, and here we are:

We still have some more decorating to do. I have to make the chair cushions, and still need to find fabric to make the couch cushions (the $1/yd place is a closeout store, and didn't have enough of the striped fabric for everything). Chuck is going to make a fountain. We want to order some 4x4 hand painted mexican tiles to use as accents in a few places. And we have our eye on a Frida Kahlo reproduction that would fit perfectly on the wall by the window.

All of this will happen once the money tree starts blooming.

But right now, we have our sights set on some BIG renovation projects, which brings me to up-to-date.

Last weekend we went to our friends' wonderful lake house in Charlotte, which they remodeled over the course of 18 months. Looking at their before and after pics got us fired up, so we've started 2 big projects at once - our backyard and master bathroom. A guy is coming to clear and grade the back yard on Saturday, and we begin demo for the master bath at the same time. We hope to be done within 6 weeks time. Pics and details to follow!!!