Long Slow Remodel

Long Slow Remodel: Progress Today

It doesn’t look like we did much when you compare to the before picture, but it was a significant amount of drywall to tear out and the pantry ceiling was a sandwich of drywall and plywood.

So now we have a new pile of drywall to fit into our garbage can over the next week or two. Next stage is pulling down some of those 2x4s. I need to use some of them for the grape arbor I need to construct before the vines leaf out, so I have a deadline there. I’m increasingly of the opinion that we need to move the door into the garage. Which means learning how to cut a door hole, install a door, and move a set of concrete steps. Gonna be a lot of work, but I think if I don’t do it, I’ll be annoyed by it for a long time. And since the door is currently where I want the fridge. I think I have to figure out moving a door before I hire an electrician. Unless I hire a handyman to do all of it, which has some appeal. I’ll have to see what the tax return looks like so I know what budget I have available. I’ll also have to see if my go to renovation guy has any space in his schedule. I suspect he’s booked solid for months. We’ll probably end up doing it ourselves and just hiring out the electrical work.

But for today, we’re at a stopping place.

Long Slow Remodel: Pantry Removal

After pausing for several months, we’re inching our way toward having a remodeled kitchen. We finished our new pantry wall, so now it is time to remove the old pantry.

The first step was to take out the shelves. These were 3/4 inch particle board shelves that were nailed into place. They were very heavy to lift and maneuver, but I got them out.

Tearing out drywall was next. I also had to saw free a couple of 2×4 posts. We cut a hole into the next room so that we could start visualizing how this space will look with the wall gone.

You can see that I found where the electrical wire was. That’s why I didn’t remove the dry wall all the way to the floor. I could see us trying to walk through open studs and tripping over that electrical wire. The goal is to remove enough drywall so that we can decide how the electrical pieces need to be moved and then we’ll hire a certified electrician to make the wiring changes. Here is a view of the new window from the other side.

This was our stopping place on Saturday. I cleaned up the drywall mess and put Howard’s fridge back into place so that we could continue to function in the kitchen while the project is paused. Over the next week we’ll get the pile of drywall debris broken down and hauled off. We’ll also examine the lumber we removed to see how much of it can be reclaimed. Some will go toward future projects here at the house. Some will get donated to habitat for humanity. No point in wasting good lumber. Our resting configuration:

Or at least so I thought. The next day my son was looking for work to do, so we had him remove the cabinets over the fridge. They joined the donation pile in the garage. There was so much dirt and grunge accumulated on and behind those cabinets.

My son-in-law who works construction came over for a visit the day after the work was done. It is super nice to have someone with experience to admire my work and to help me talk through the next steps. That’s one of the advantages of the slow tear-down. I have plenty of time to think through what comes next, pre-purchase materials, and make plans. He asked what my expected timeline is. I don’t have a set timeline. I’m hoping that tax return money can fund paying for electrical and plumbing work. (Moving the fridge requires both.) Then there is another pause waiting for funding. The next Schlock book Kickstarter will hopefully allow me to buy all the cabinets we’ll need. Then I can spend the summer staining and finishing the cabinets.

We’re getting there piece by piece.

Long Slow Remodel: Pantry Wall (nearly) Complete

When last I did a Long Slow Remodel update, we had just laid a bit of the new flooring and set the base cabinets into place so we could start visualizing.

Once we had the cabinets fastened into place, we were ready for the countertop company to come and measure things. We waited two weeks for the appointment. During the wait we lay planks across the top so that the cats wouldn’t jump into the drawers and break them. We also put up papers to visualize where the upper cabinets would go.

The counter top people measured, then we waited another two weeks for the counter to be fabricated. Then they installed it. Yay!

Except we discovered a problem. The sink was larger than we had pictured, which meant our cabinet plan had a cupboard on the very edge of the sink. This didn’t seem ideal, so we re-thought our plan by taking the cabinet boxes and shuffling them around.

I then used one of the boxes as a prop to hold up the cabinets which wouldn’t be sitting directly on the counter while I attached them to the wall. The end result was a cabinet arrangement that really pleased us.

We have a nice open space around the sink and some artistic asymmetry. All that remains is fixing the back splash which is now too short, installing handles, installing the sink, and paying a plumber to install the faucet. One thing that is fun is to look at how our plans evolved from the first sketches to the end result.

We’re happy with this new pantry and we’ve already moved our food into the cupboards. Because the next goal is to make the old pantry wall be gone. The fridge will move so that its back is against the wall with the door, and an island will go where the fridge currently sits.

I’m really looking forward to being able to sit in this front space and talk to people who are in the kitchen without shouting around the wall.

Bit by bit the kitchen is inching closer to where we need it to be.

Long Slow Remodel: First Section of Floor

We got the first section of flooring laid. As usual Callie and Milo were super helpful.

So helpful

Even with help we got the new floor in place.

Having it there already changes the feel of the space. The stone look has a cooler feel than the wood, but it already creaks way less and will be far more durable for the way our family lives. Now we can move into the next phase, assembling the pantry wall. I’m sure the kitties will help there too.

Long Slow Remodel: Flooring Begins

Today I began the work to tear out hardwood flooring so we can lay down LVP instead. I was pleased to discover that I’m going to be able to salvage the hardwood planks so they can be donated to habitat for humanity.

Being able to donate the planks makes me feel better about pulling up good hardwood. Why am I tearing it out if it is still good? Many reasons. The first being that not all the wood is good. There are places where water damage has warped boards. The wood next to the door where water leaks in has begun to show signs of dry rot. Second, we’ve already got areas where there are holes in the flooring. Most notably the spot where we removed a closet to install a railing instead.

You can also see spots where the wood was removed to make space for the railing.

While it is possible to patch these sort of things, the reality of doing so is exceedingly tricky. Also there is the fact that we’re planning on removing a superfluous wall which will create an even larger and more visible gap in the flooring. On top of the existing damage, our experience with floods and hardwood floor maintenance has led us to conclude that our family will be better served with a different material on the floor. Hopefully I’ll get to show you the stuff we’re installing soon. For now, here is the space that I’ve cleared so we can install flooring and then cabinets.

Crown Molding Triumph

Last year when we were putting up cabinets in the front room, I also purchased crown molding. I stained the molding and cabinets to match each other. The cabinets went up in April 2019, then the rest of that year went into emergency repairs and the first half of this year was buried in pandemic. The project intimidated me because the angles on crown mean visualizing things upside down and backward, then holding long strips of wood over head tight to the ceiling while wielding a trim nailer. Baseboards are so much easier. They lay flat against the wall and gravity assists instead of fighting. This week our flooring order arrived. That meant I was ready to launch into the next phase of kitchen remodel. However putting up crown is much easier when cabinets aren’t in the way. So I finally did the anxious thing: I rented the necessary tools and devoted a day to nailing things to the ceiling. Happily the tool rental folks treated me like an intelligent tool-using fellow human, which isn’t always guaranteed when a woman goes to rent power tools. Also, having a miter saw made the work go so much smoother. Five hours later I have crown.

I love it. I’ll love it even more when I’m finally able to remove that wall with a couple of old cabinets and the fridge.

While we were doing crown and picking up flooring, Howard noticed something odd with one of our front windows. Yup, those are cracks. The heat deflector we put up last summer was apparently bad for the glass, (oops) though it made the room much more livable. So next week I get to make phone calls about glass replacement.

Fortunately I don’t have to do the actual work on glass repair (other than making the call.) Instead I can focus on this space which is about to become a pantry wall.

But first, some rest. I’m pretty tired from overcoming anxieties and hefting power tools all day.

A Tour of House Projects in Progress

After last summer’s detour into flood damage repair, this year I’m back to working on the house projects I want to get done. Because of financial and time constraints, the projects move slowly, however the life shifts around pandemic have me needing hands-busy-not-too-thinky tasks. Home improvement fills that need nicely. Progress has been made.

The largest and most ongoing project is our Long Slow Remodel of our kitchen. The current goal is to get rid of that wall in the middle before November launches the holiday season.

The next step is to waiting on flooring to arrive. I have to tear out flooring in front of this wall, lay new flooring, and then we can install a pantry wall with a secondary sink. (The plumbing for the sink was installed spring of 2019.) We’ll live with a patch of mis-matched flooring while we take a bunch of other steps like new counter tops, wall removal, re-wiring the location of the fridge, etc.

I already have the cabinets which will go on the pantry wall. They’re waiting out in my garage.

We had paused the kitchen remodel because purchasing flooring is a big spend and I was worried about finances. But we think that re-configuring our kitchen to match the way that our brains work will help Howard in his quest to improve his health. So we’re moving forward. During the pause I was in need of projects, and my son was also in need of things to do, so we decided to put a patio in the dirt patch that used to be under our deck that we had to demolish because it had rotted. (Deck demolishing Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) Here is what the patch looked like in 2014 after we removed the deck:

This is how the dirt patch spent most of the intervening years: Covered in leaf piles and various other detritus.

This is the current state of the dirt patch, which is well on its way to becoming a patio. We used the wheelbarrow to haul excavated dirt to a large (and growing larger) pile of dirt in the corner of the yard. I’m thinking we’ll use some of it to fill raised garden beds. Hopefully we’ll do that faster than the six years it took us to move from dirt patch to patio. The pile of sand on the tarp was salvaged from an old sandbox which we disassembled in early spring of 2019. We’re using it in the laying of pavers, but the size of the pile suggests that we’ll have some left over for other projects later. Process is dig, remove tree roots, level dirt, lay landscape cloth, layer gravel, layer sand, place each paver carefully using a level. At the end I’ll use polymeric sand to seal everything into place.

While hauling dirt to our big pile, I noticed that one of our pine trees had been so overtaken by wisteria vines that it was in danger of dying. I cut the vines to give the tree a chance. Unfortunately that created this situation:

Instead of having a wall of green, there is a wall of dead. Dried, crispy dead just waiting for a spark to turn the whole mess into a massive torch. Particularly since the underside of all that dead wisteria looks like this:

So in between digging and laying pavers, I’m taking time to cut back and remove all of the dead from this tree. I’m also raking up a decade of dead pine needles and wisteria leaves from the ground. I’ll probably need a young, nimble person to get on a ladder or climb the tree to help me get some of the dead vines removed. Bit by bit it is getting less hazardous.

Not a hazard, but definitely an eyesore is this weedy patch which flanks the other side of my small deck. It used to be raised garden beds framed by railroad ties. Then we realized that all the terrible chemicals from the railroad ties would leach into the soil, and be taken into the food plants. We pulled the railroad ties, which left a couple of mounds. Then life got busy and the mounds went to weeds. Since there were mounds, we couldn’t just mow them. So in order to get this spot under control we need to clear the weeds and level the ground, or reinstall garden beds. I’m considering making this spot into a patio too or we could return it to being lawn, which is what it was before very-young me decided to make it raised garden beds. This project is on the list, but I doubt we’ll get to it this year.

Last, but not least urgent, are the front flower beds which have reached their usual state of July disarray. Weeds need to be pulled, plants need to be cut back. I need to fertilize to give all of it a chance of being pretty again in the fall and next spring.

Owning a house is a lot of work if you want to keep the house in good condition. I’ve lived in this house and tended to it for over twenty years now. Some of my current projects are me correcting my own past errors (railroad garden beds,) some are me fighting the natural entropy of living things trying to take over (tree rescue, weeds,) and some are me correcting long-standing problems (removing that wall in the kitchen.) It is a good thing I like having projects.

Long Slow Remodel Week 61

My last report on our long slow remodel was April 24, 2019. We didn’t intend to put the project on hiatus for more than a year, but flooding damage and emergency repairs took over all available time and funds. I finally have time to get back to improving our kitchen. It starts with the purchase of cabinets and turning my garage into a workshop again.

Getting the boxes finished only took about a week. I then set them up the way they’ll go into my kitchen so I could start visualizing.

It is a little hard to see surrounded by the jumble of garage, but this is the plan on the wall where these cabinets will go.

Next I’m working on the doors and drawer fronts. Sanding those smooth is the next step. Then I can move onward to the staining and varnishing. Once the cabinets are completed, the project hits a pause again until I can fund the flooring which needs to go underneath them.

Long Slow Remodel: Weeks 5-7

Week five was the eventful week, we got the cupboards onto the wall. Because of the way we wanted the cupboards arranged and where the wall studs were placed, we started by putting up planks and then mounted the cupboards to the planks.

Milo was very interested in this process and helped out by inspecting things. Also by pretending to be a gargoyle.

Here are the cabinets completely mounted. Not yet installed: the knobs on the cupboards and more hooks for hanging jackets underneath the cupboards.

Things slowed down quite a lot in weeks 6 & 7. We were kind of taking a breather between projects. Also there were a lot of family events and business tasks which needed our attention. However we did order the final piece that will help complete the entry area: a bench.

We ordered it unfinished so that we could make it match the cabinets. We intend to cut it shorter so that it is a low bench intended to allow people to easily sit and put on their shoes. Loose shoes will live underneath the bench since I’m a person who kicks off her shoes when entering the house. (Howard is a shoes-on person.)

The next phase of the project will be building a pantry wall across from the cooking area. It will be on this big blank wall.

We’ve drawn up a rough plan for what we want to do. There will still be some shuffling around of cupboards, but this is the general idea.

Bit by bit we’ll get this done. Current focus, shuffling funds around to enable us to pay for the next purchase of cupboards.

Long Slow Remodel: Week 4

This week most of the progress happened in Howard’s office where this space:

Was turned into this space:

We called these our “test cupboards” we were learning the process of finishing the cupboards and experimenting with hanging them. That way we made most of our mistakes on cupboards that will not be on public display the moment people enter the house.

With Howard’s cupboards looking spiffy, I turned our garage into a full workshop and worked on the front room cupboards.

As of today, the boxes for the cupboards were ready, so we stacked them in the front room to help us visualize how it would go. Milo helped inspect. Picture this arrangement about four to five feet higher up on the wall with shelves in the gaps between cupboards.

Stacking and visualizing turned out to be really smart. We identified a problem. The spacing of those upright cupboards is such that it is impossible to attach all of them to studs simultaneously. We came up with a plan where we’re using planks behind the cupboards as additional support and to create a sort of framing structure. We also realized that our intended height would make most of the cupboards hard to access. but hanging the cupboards lower would cause a problem hanging some of our long coats on hooks below the cupboards. That was when we came up with this arrangement, which we like way better. The upright gap will still have shelves. The open bottom gap will house coats.

So now I’ve got planks to stain, side panels to stain and doors to finish varnishing. Oh, and there is crown molding that I also need to stain. The good news is that I enjoy painting stain and varnish on wood. So the project is being fun.