Long Slow Remodel

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.

Long Slow Remodel: Week 3

This was a week without much photographable progress. And yet, Howard figured out the method and supplies he’ll need to install the in-cabinet lighting. I completely varnished and shined all the cabinets for Howard’s office. Then I sanded and prepped all six cabinets for the front room. The project is underfoot in a dozen different ways, but we’re learning a lot and hopefully by next week we’ll have all the cabinets up in Howard’s office.

Long Slow Remodel: Week 2

Progress was slowed down this week by stain colors. After carefully testing and deciding on a color, I discovered that one of the colors we picked wasn’t readily available. We apparently bought the only pint size can available at the store and quarts were going for $40 or more online. (Retail price on quarts for this brand $8). I tried having a paint store mix the color, but it didn’t match at all. So we back tracked and picked a more readily available color.

But now we have three more cabinets stained and partially varnished. Staining happens in our front room.

The varnish/lacquer is really smelly and so it has to happen out in our garage, which I’ve turned into a workshop for the duration of this project. Unfortunately, this means we do quite a bit of waiting for the weather to be warm enough so I can work. The lacquer doesn’t soak into the wood or cure correctly if the temperatures are below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

So, not much visible progress this week. But Howard has ordered the pieces for him to install interior lighting into the cabinets. This first batch of cabinets is destined for Howard’s office. The next batch is six cabinets and will go into the front room. I can start on that batch as soon as this batch is completed. prepping the next batch requires sanding and I can’t have tiny wood particles landing in wet stain or lacquer.

Long Slow Remodel: Preliminary & Week 1

We’ve been working on a remodel for years now. Six years ago, I repainted the front room. In 2016 I tore out a front closet and we stared at bare studs for 18 months. Last summer we finally put in the railing we’d been dreaming of. This summer we’ll be putting in work staining unfinished cabinets and installing them. Bit by bit we are going to transform our front room space. The goal is to get rid of that pantry wall in the middle of the room.

It will be replaced with an island counter. But before we can tear down the wall, we have to create new homes for all the food that currently lives in that pantry. We’ll be creating a pantry wall on the other side of the kitchen. But before we’re ready to put in those cabinets, we wanted to test and make sure that we can actually do this cabinet staining and installing ourselves. So we’re beginning with installing a painting table and cabinets in Howard’s office, and also installing cabinets and coat hooks in the entry area.

We ordered cabinets and they arrived a couple of weeks ago. Since then we’ve been test staining to make sure we can match the color of the railing.

Howard and Keliana picked a piece of plywood with beautiful patterns to be the table top for the office painting station. On the floor you can see the outline of where we removed the closet.

We’ve decided on a two-tone look for the cabinets. This is our test cabinet. For the remaining cabinets the base will also be the lighter color so that the doors look like picture frames. We have some ideas about decorative things to do with those frames.

Up next, pulling doors off of 11 more cabinets so that they can be sanded and stained. I’ve also got a window sill to assemble and stain. Now if only the weather would cooperate and warm up. Wood doesn’t stain well if it is below 60% so right now we’re having to bring things indoors to stain. It’ll be a lot faster when the garage is a good staining temperature and we can assembly line the work.

So that’s where we are with the project this week. My hope is that we can have that pantry wall gone by the end of the summer.

Fixing Our Spaces

This past week we’ve had workers in our house doing some construction. I sometimes feel self conscious about the conspicuous consumption involved in home improvement projects. I was raised in the “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” school of thought. However I’ve increasingly become aware that the way we arrange our living spaces directly impacts how we live inside those spaces. If I am constantly surrounded by things that are falling apart, it contributes to me not making effort to take care of my surroundings. On the other hand, if my surroundings are beautiful to my eyes, I feel more at peace in my life. Unfortunately, beautiful is often the more expensive option, so it has been a long time coming. In fact, we’re working to re-make our house a little bit at a time. This week we finally had the funds to fix up the stairs.

Here is what our front entry looked like before any work was done. The big blocky thing you see to the left was a coat closet. You may infer from the hooks with coats on them that this closet was filled with things which we rarely had a need to access. It was shove space. And it was taking up square footage at the entrance to our house.

About eighteen months ago I decided that the closet needed to be removed. So I dismantled it. Unfortunately right after the dismantling we hit a financial tight patch and we ended up living with bare studs for the next year and a half.

This is what the space looks like today.

We have beautiful railing where once there was a big block of shove space. obviously there is still work to do. The wall needs paint, the flooring has to be replaced, and there will be additional fittings to make this front entry way a better place to put coats, backpacks and other items that are taken off when entering the house.

But I’m so glad that visitors to my house are no longer greeted with this view.

Instead they get to see this.

And when I’m sitting in my kitchen I don’t see this anymore.

Instead I have a view of beautiful railing and the front door.

These railings are only the beginning. They define how we want our main floor to one day look. They are a promise to ourselves that bit by bit we will make our primary living area into one that makes us glad to enter instead of one that constantly frustrates us.

New Task Prioritization Strategy

Last Wednesday evening I was feeling cranky and out of sorts. When I sat down to figure it out, I realized that much of it was that I felt conflicted about how to spend Thursday. Thursday was a week day and I had lots of work priorities that are up against deadlines. I should spend the day getting those things done. However Thursday was also my kid’s first day of Fall break. That mean regular rhythms were disrupted and perhaps I should spend the day in weekend mode, doing house and family things. As I thought it through, I realized that I was surrounded by house tasks that have been bugging me for weeks (or months) and which I’d kept shoving aside because of pressing work deadlines. It was time to let house and family shove aside work. So Thursday was a house day.

Next came the question of how to pick which house chores to do. There are far more than could be accomplished in a single day, but none of them had attached deadlines therefore I couldn’t sort-by-deadline the way I often do with work tasks. Also I was tired of chasing deadlines and following long lists of To Do. I decided to just pick whichever task was bugging me most, or whatever I felt like doing next. Then when one task was done, I would take a break while picking the next one.

The first thing I tackled was finishing the paint in the kitchen. I began painting the kitchen almost a year ago, because I was really tired of dingy white with dirt streaks where grime accumulated on the studs.

But when I got to the space over the cupboards, a confluence of circumstances (I needed different tools, reaching over cupboards was more awkward, Planet Mercenary started demanding full attention) meant that I painted some of the edges, but not the entire area. I don’t have a picture of this partially painted state, but it was the worst of both. Painted sections looked sloppy/unfinished, while unpainted sections still sported dingy white and dirt streaks. It sat that way for ten months. Until last Thursday when I hauled out the ladder and paint supplies. Within two hours I had this instead.

The kitchen still needs a lot of work. A full remodel is in the planning stages, but this small piece of it is done.

A related task was started last December and had also been stalled since then. As part of our proposed remodel, we wanted to remove a closet. This one:

It was basically a box near the front door where we shoved all the things we didn’t have places for. It was always cluttered and unusable. We wanted to open up the space. Last December I dismantled the closet, painted the wall, and put up coat hooks.

Then I ran into a problem. One post from the closet ran all the way up to the ceiling. We were pretty sure that it wasn’t a load bearing structure. Other houses in our neighborhood with the exact same floor plan, didn’t have posts. However, I wanted “pretty sure” to be “absolutely sure” before I took it down. So the project stalled. And I stared at bare studs and an ugly post for ten months.

I finally got out the ladder and climbed into the rafters of the attic crawlspace. Using a flashlight and taking care not to step on anything except solid rafters, I measured to where the post was. I discovered this sticking up from the insulation and sheet rock.

Definitely not a load bearing structure. I didn’t tackle the removal on Thursday. I still have research to do on how best to remove it. I’ll probably need to rent tools. But that post is now doomed and the project can proceed.

Other things I accomplished on Thursday:
Taking a pile of unwanted clothes and things to a thrift store
Scouring out a bathroom that had become disgusting
Vacuumed several rooms
Reorganized a linen closet (thus acquiring a new pile of things to donate)
Turned a jumble in the garage into a swept and usable space

At the end of the day I’d done many tasks that had been niggling at my attention for a long time. A new set of household tasks is now jockeying for position, because that is the nature of houses and tasks. But I feel better about my house than I have for ten months. It feels like house projects can move forward instead of being perpetually shoved aside or stalled.

Friday I spent six hours driving to retrieve college girl from campus. She has fall break this weekend.

Saturday I had to decide whether to re-shoulder the burden of my work To Do lists or to continue focusing on house and family. I picked a middle ground. I did work, because those deadlines really do matter and I couldn’t feel good about blowing them off completely, but I didn’t sort tasks by deadlines. Instead I did whichever work task was bugging me the most. They’re all the same tasks, just sorted a bit differently. I got quite a bit done. There is still much more left to do.

Here at the beginning of a new week, I know I have deadlines to meet before Friday. So I’m going to have to do some deadline based prioritization, but it is nice to have another strategy available so I can switch things up when I get worn out. I get worn out a lot lately. I’ve been under deadline pressure since late 2016, which is a really long time to carry that weight.