Renovations Resume

IMG_8765We passed the inspection earlier this week and we are now back on track! The drywall came in on Wednesday. I was so out of practice of renovation blogging that I forgot to take a picture of all of the drywall boards lined up in the kitchen. I wasn’t home Thursday but when I got back there were walls! It is amazing how the size of the room seems to change depending on each new stage. I’d gotten used to the BIG kitchen area. Now it seems small again.

I fled the house again on Friday so I have no idea what it sounds like when they are building walls and ceilings, nor when they begin filling in the cracks. What I DO know, however, is that drywall makes lots and lots and lots of white dust. IMG_8780We grilled on the deck last night for dinner. The front hall looked much the same except that I cleaned it already. πŸ™‚ And that even if no work is happening in the basement, there is sufficient banging and thudding upstairs to create dust and chips and mess downstairs. So much for all my vacuuming and dusting last weekend. I had to sweep up debris again last night when I went downstairs to wash some dishes. I am longing for a kitchen sink with running water.

I’m still a tad ignorant about the whole drywall business. I gather there is still more to be done, that it (something) takes multiple coats. They are due back on Monday to do more whatever. In the meantime my painter stopped by on Friday and chatted with the workers. It seems as though he might be able to prime the walls and paint the ceilings beginning Wednesday or Thursday. I’m told that depends on how quickly the walls dry, which is impacted by humidity. New Jersey. Summer. Rain forecast for Monday and Tuesday. There will be humidity.

IMG_8781After the walls we get a floor. That will be wonderful because despite all of the warning, and despite knowing better, I keep walking through the construction bare-foot. Yes, invariably I find sharp things on the floor. Much like stepping on Lego blocks – no serious damage to the foot but EXTREMELY uncomfortable.

Where was I hiding while the seams and cracks in the wall were being filled? A friend had invited me to go down the shore with her for the day. IMG_8772Twist my arm. πŸ™‚ I promptly rescheduled my dentist appointment, cancelled one of my meetings for Friday and sent my regrets for the others. I’d much rather be breathing salt air, and hearing the sound of wind and waves and happy beach sounds than breath white dust and hear hammering. I’ll have plenty of that on Monday, I’m sure.

Stalled

IMG_8695Construction has come to a halt while we wait for the township to come and inspect the insulation. I have been extremely surprised at how quickly we have had the past inspections. It seemed Don had but to call and an appointment was scheduled within the week. Not this time. This is more what I had expected, given some of my other dealings with government when trying to sell our mother’s house. We are stalled for over a week, waiting to get the next inspection done. I think this is the last inspection for quite a bit. I don’t think the next few rounds of activity are going to require stage-by-stage approvals. So no renovation news until next week sometime, when we pass inspection (we hope) and start on the walls.

In the meantime I’ll share garden pictures. I’ve been working in my sun room in the front of the house. The house faces south, which means that sun room can get quite warm. IMG_8697That’s a good thing in the winter but can be a bit much in the summer, hence the awnings. A friend of mine said “why AWNINGS??? They are so DARK!!!!” Well, yes, I replied, but come and join me when the temps are in the 90s. The awnings are a real help then. There are 8 windows in that sun room. I keep the blinds shut in the early morning, until the sun rises above the awnings and there is no direct light into the room. My co-workers have been commenting on my beach room, because that is, of course, what I did with my sun room. It is a very happy place for me, even if the chair/desk situation is not very good for my back. I’m in the office today and I’m wearing my sweatshirt and drinking hot coffee because I’m COLD in the air conditioning. But the chair is soooo comfortable and I love my 2 ft monitor. Pros and cons everywhere.

Spring flowers (peonies and roses) are done but many of the summer flowers are blooming. I love them, but I confess that I get bored around mid-July with having to water them so much. I have a soaker hose, and I even have a 4-way spigot I could put on the outdoor faucet. I just haven’t gotten to it. IMG_8710A common refrain: “not gotten to that yet”. I know Honour knows this song too. I love canna lilies as you can see in the photos – I have them in 3 places. It’s almost time for the rudbeckia to bloom as well. I picked some of my “crops” to snack on today in the office: yellow cherry tomatoes, which are wonderfully sweet, and Mexican sour gherkins. The gherkins are fun but they are very sour. πŸ™‚ I’m trying to think of a good way to use them to take advantage of the taste. I have another tomato plant as well as the cherry tomatoes, but that second plant has produced a single tomato. One. And my hot pepper plants have done nothing. I bought all of those at the ag fair back in the spring. I’m a bit disappointed with most of my purchases there. Only the gherkins and the cherry tomatoes seem to have thrived.

I need to trim the front hedge again. I took it down quite a bit in the spring, but it needs some attention. I need to tame the forsythia and the rhododendron on the side of the house. I cropped the picture to avoid the overgrown azaleas and the huge taller-than-my-dining-room-window weed that is growing by the outdoor faucet. That side of the house is definitely in need of major pruning. The lilac bush is blocking my way to that faucet, and so are the spider webs that spring up as soon as I clear them away. This past weekend was actually perfect pruning weather but I had other plans. I need to hire someone. Of course, I now need to hire someone to cut the grass as well, because my young high-school grass-cutter found himself a permanent job. It may be time for me to stop supporting the local youths and simply hire a lawn care service. But only if they’ll do it without chemicals. Or I could just let it all grow and grow….
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Up and Down

basement wiresLots of things have been up and down this weekend. Especially me – up and down the basement stairs. One of the ‘promises’ my husband and I make to each other is that our next home will be one story – no more stairs. Highly unlikely, but everyone needs the hope of something better.

Down: I broke 2 pieces off of the vacuum cleaner while I tried to get every little spec of kitty litter off the carpeting upstairs. Oh yeah, we are so ripping out those carpets when the kitchen is done. This is only half-down because the vacuum still works. I’m not sure what those pieces did.

Up: a wonderful day spent out in glorious sunshine, without humidity, at a very good street fair with a fun friend. The weather was perfect, the fair was well attended but not jammed, and we found a parking spot in the shade.

laundry sinkDown: broke one of the 2 light bulbs in the refrigerator. Again, not really down-down because we are not keeping this refrigerator anyway. But annoying because there is now less light. Also annoying because I think the bulb broke off so part of it is still in the fixture, so I can’t just put in a new bulb.

Up: found a new artist at the craft show whose work I really like – Linda McAdams. Had to buy a piece to bring home with me, and I’m hoping to get one to put in the kitchen, to hang between the basement door and front hall door. She takes photos and transfers them to wood. The grain of the wood enhances the photos and makes for extremely appealing landscapes. She can make them to spec as well. I notice that the one that I liked is cropped differently in the photo I took at the show, than it is in the version on the website.

new art palm treeDown: I dropped one of my plastic lids so that it is under one of the cabinet drawers. I don’t have room to remove the drawer to get to the lid, and I haven’t been able to get sufficient leverage to try to knock it out under the opened drawer. When they move this piece back into the breakfast room they’ll take the drawers out and I’ll get it then. In another 6 weeks…..

Up: Managed to find enough surface and tools to make 3 different salads to have handy in the house. I’m very tired of store-bought salads and all the plastic containers. Here’s a concept – just like we bring our own bags, we should be able to bring our own containers to have them filled with salads and other prepared foods. We managed to cook dinner 3 nights in a row on the grill, with salad and corn on the cob. Perfect. And I also found everything I was trying to find (plastic containers, potato peeler, measuring spoons, spices) with the sole exception of the good can opener (hand operated). I did find the not very good one, which I had upstairs to deal with recalcitrant cat food cans, but the good one is not in any of the 3 kitchen implement storage bins. Or it is, but it was hiding. But still – this is the first thing in 6 weeks that I have been unable to locate. That’s not a bad percentage.

Down – or is this Up? Once again I am playing the role of Sisyphus, this time trying to deal with dust and debris. We’re both a bit tired of having to schlep dirty dishes to the basement to wash them (and I had a lot after making the salads and dinner). I spent a good hour or more in the basement sweeping and vacuuming and wiping down surfaces and objects trying to deal with the residual mess from opened ceilings and drilled holes and other banging and hammering. care packageI am REALLY growing to loathe the hanging wires at the foot of the basement stairs. Short as I am, I still bang my head on them no matter which way I duck. I understand why my husband goes down those stairs even less than I do. But on the upside of this down, the laundry area is MUCH cleaner, even if I did inhale a ton of dirty dust, and even if I know it’s only momentary until the workmen are back. I also swept the kitchen and breakfast room areas, including the “carpet” that is meant to help us walk safely between rooms. Another probably pointless task but at least for the moment I am not seeing pieces of wood or wire or other chunks of whatever. It was the window seat in the breakfast room that triggered this particular boulder-up-the-hill effort. I just had that replaced this March and it was completely covered in dust and debris. I wonder if my new blinds will ever be clean again. I wish I had realized they’d be coated with dust. I could have taken them down. Or realistically – had someone take them down for me. *grin*

flock of sea birdsHUGE UP: I came home from the street fair to discover a BOX! It was from Honour. On the label it said “paper bags”. That was odd. Why was Honour sending me paper bags????? I opened the box and lo and behold – the label lied. (Must have been her Canadian accent.) It was a care package sent with love from Canada. Apparently somewhere in the last several days Honour had gotten the impression that I was a little stressed, and thought I could use a bright spot in my day. πŸ™‚ Brilliant woman. The box was chock-full with edible goodies AND a non-edible puffin!!! My husband and I both grabbed for the puffin. πŸ™‚ It’s mine. πŸ™‚ We made a start on the yummies that night with the cranberry cookies. The puffin made friends with the seagull and took up residence in my sun room, which is my beach room. A good place for a puffin, right?

Adding not Subtracting

IMG_8699We have definitely turned the corner. We are not yet in the home-stretch but
have rounded the first curve. πŸ™‚ Yesterday we passed another inspection – a building inspection for the fire-stops. Today the insulation was added. This means another building inspection and then….. then…. WALLS!!!!

I’ve been answering some questions from Manny (do I want a want a tilt-out soap tray? No.) and hoping for some suggestions from him about new deck lighting. It’s clear that my husband and I are excited about very different aspects of the kitchen. When I talk to people it’s all about light & space: opening the doorway, the pocket door, the slanted ceiling in the breakfast room. He is very much about the stove and the counters. When I was chatting with the foreman and reciting back to him “what happens next” I listed walls, floor, cabinets, appliances. I forgot about the counter top completely. I confess – I’ve NEVER walked into any kitchen or showroom or anywhere and said “WOW!!! What a gorgeous counter!” Obviously counters are not my thing. Although at the moment I am missing them greatly because it’s very difficult and unpleasant to try to do any food preparation in the little piece of the dining room table that is available. I know, first world problems, right?

We are also tweaking the schedule to make life easier on our painter. Don (the foreman) suggested that our painter might want the opportunity to get in and do the priming and the ceilings once the sheet rock was done.IMG_8700 I checked and he agreed. Given that this is July, we all expect that it will take days for the sheet rock to dry sufficiently for any further work. Our forecasts here are 3Hs – hazy, hot and humid – now through August. Don even suggested having the painting done, but I haven’t the faintest idea what color I’m going to want. I’m not going to be able to figure that out until the counter top and the backsplash are in place.

I think it’s probably time to start looking for a new ceiling fan for the kitchen (sans lights) and for funky cabinet handles and knobs. I’m going to have to make a decision whether I want to keep with my earth tones/materials in the kitchen or if I want to look for something funky (like steampunk) or if I want to get splashes of bright color. One thing about knobs and handles – if I get it wrong it should be fairly simple to change. I hope. Sure beats knob & tube wiring issues.

A New Career

Who knew? I certainly didn’t. Apparently I am an architect. πŸ™‚

We were having a lovely, lovely 4th of July BBQ with friends, folks we have not seen in ages. Of course we were sharing the saga of the kitchen renovations. Most of them had also lived through a renovation or two. After asking about the contractor we were using, one of the men asked “Who’s the architect?” I looked at him, puzzled. “Architect?” I shrugged and said “we don’t have an architect, what does an architect DO?” He replied “Decides on heights and changes in walls and where things go.” I looked at my husband, still a bit puzzled. My husband gave that little secret smile of his and sort of nodded my way and said to me “You’re the architect.”

I guess I AM. I’m the one who is changing the doorways and the ceilings and deciding other structural changes.

Look at me – I’m an architect! I’d better figure out what the heck the soffit IS and how it’s going to work with the crown molding. *grin* search: images soffit………

Renovation Hardships

When we told our friends about the kitchen renovation, and that it would take 10-12 weeks to complete, almost ALWAYS the first question was “What will you do about FOOD?” I scoffed and said what was so terrible, we’d have the grill on the deck, we had a microwave, we had a refrigerator. I was right and I was wrong. We do have all of that and more (coffee, hot water, toaster oven) but it’s really not the same. My husband is reveling in this lack of kitchen because he gets to stop every day and pick up food for dinner. I notice he’s also spending a fortune on eating out for breakfast and lunch because there are never any leftovers to take. Bringing in food is not awful, but it’s a lot higher in calories and much less fresh than if we were making our own. I usually make up a huge salad and then munch my way through it during the week (much the way the local deer work their way through our gardens and yards). I miss all the fresh veggies and I miss my weekly trip to the local farmers’ market 5 block away.

I thought I was prepared to deal with the cutlery and dishes. I bought a huge quantity of plastic ware and paper plates and plastic (recyclable) cups. After all, we have no dishwasher and no kitchen sink. Yet we still use dishes and utensils that need washing. drying dishes in the bathroomWe can either do this in the bathroom sink or down in the basement in the laundry area. The basement was working well – I had the dish drainer on the washing machine. There is a big sink so we could do the cutting board and other large items. Then the electrical work began. Not only did the alien electric cords emerge from the ceiling but there is dust and wood chips and other debris down there. The contractors do a very good job of cleaning up each day but there is still the debris that has fallen down among the items on every surface. Washing the dishes in the bathroom sink is a challenge because the faucet is fixed and low – very difficult to get a 16-oz glass clean. I also worry about glass items because the sink is so shallow that anything larger than a cup hits the sides.

The recycling hasn’t been too much of a hardship. That all used to be in the kitchen. Now we have the glass/plastic in the front hall and the paper in the living room. Both containers are tucked in neatly. They need to be emptied more often, however, because (1) we have a lot more containers to toss and (2) they are unsightly and (3) it’s summer and I don’t have central a/c and it gets warm and they start to smell. Still all in all, not really a problem.

Water and ice are perhaps my biggest annoyances. I can’t make my own ice and I have to buy bags of ice. The ice in bags is NOT really cubed ice. IMG_8676It may have started that way but by the time you get it home and hammer it apart (because it melted on the way home and then froze into one huge lump in the freezer) it has a lot of little pieces and lots of pulverized ice. The crushed ice is great for a frozen drink, but if you want iced tea or coffee or water, cubes are much better. And the fragments fall on my wood dining room floor which makes me crazy. πŸ™‚ Okay, crazier. I don’t want my floor ruined because of stray ice chips. We are in the 5th day of a heat wave, with at least 2 more days predicted, and we are using up a lot of ice. Although it costs more, I’ve gone back to the gallon jugs of water instead of the 2.5 gallons. The 2.5 gallons are not as easy to use for filling coffee pots and pitchers. Sometimes they are difficult to close one-handed and that means water on the dining room floor. They also take up a lot of room, and counter space is in short supply these days. dust on tableOn the other hand it finally occurred to me that I could store things under the dining room table since I removed half of the chairs (so we had room to walk around the table).

I guess the last “hardship” is the dust and debris that seem to be everywhere. I don’t consider myself an especially “neat” person. I can tolerate a fair amount of disorder in the house. But when I get stressed, my solution is to clean and straighten. There is kitty litter being tracked all over the upstairs which is, unfortunately, all carpeted. That may have to change after this experience. There is dust and minute particles tracked all over the downstairs from the open ceilings, walking back and forth through the construction, food handling in the dining room and eating in the sun room. There is plastic hung between the front hall and the construction to limit the mess, but as we keep walking back and forth to the bathroom, the deck, the basement, the plastic can only do so much. plastic in doorwayNot to mention that having to wend our way through the plastic is annoying. When the workmen are not here, I try to keep the big plastic sheet tucked out of the way. This all seems to be causing a low-grade, subconscious stress for me because no matter where I look, things are not clear and organized. I had no idea I was so obsessive about order. No wonder I love Seder so much. Vacuuming is do-able if I don’t mind freaking out the cats when I do the upstairs. Downstairs is okay, but there is so much stuff in the way that it mostly consists of moving furniture. It all feels extremely Sisyphean.

I was going to call this “first world hardships” because nothing I’ve described is really a hardship. There is an end to it, I’m getting something wonderful, and I chose to do this. It all reminds me of a wonderful parable I read when I was young. A poor couple has a one-room house and many children. They are very crowded in their house and it’s becoming very stressful and unpleasant for them. They ask the Rabbi for help. The Rabbi has them bring their farm animals into the house, one-by-one. Finally when all the animals are crammed in the house with all the family, the Rabbi has them take all the animals out. The man comes running back to the Rabbi to proclaim how WONDERFUL it is – there is sooooo much room in the house!! *grin* That’s how I am going to feel once all of this is out of my living room and dining room. Wow!!! Look at how LARGE a house I have!!

(of course not EVERYONE in the house agrees with me…… )

Renovation hardship cat
TRUE Renovation Hardship

Finally the Ceiling I Wanted

flat ceilingI can’t remember how long ago we did the addition on the house – maybe 28 years ago. As I’ve mentioned before, when I requested a skylight, it never occurred to me that it did not come with a slanted ceiling automatically. Instead I’ve had a shaft going up to the roof, letting in light and air (the window can be opened). It hasn’t been bad, or a problem, it was just not what I had envisioned. After we all agreed to slope the ceiling, it was almost a matter of minutes before all the extraneous boards were removed, and the proper supports to satisfy the engineer were installed. I wish I knew how to take photos that would convey the slope, but you will have to make do with what I have. As happened with the widened doorway, freeing the skylight from the shaft has already made a HUGE difference in the room, even with only rough boards. I now also have a beam that WILL be noticeable when all is finished, but I am already planning to hang flower baskets from the beam. That may NOT be a good idea unless I put in fake plants, because I tend to water my plants until it runs out the bottom, and I will also have a brand new floor under those plants. I’m open to suggestions because I’m fairly certain a beam like that is calling for something creative or funky.

I ask questions when the workmen are here, hoping to learn more about how things work, what other people do when renovating old houses. sloped ceilingI was pondering putting in a new electric skylight but we all agreed that making it a power window (and shade) would be adding one more potential headache. I’m not sure what to do about a shade up there. I have a suspicion that now the window is freed from the shaft, there may be a lot more heat than even I will like (I have a very high tolerance for hot weather). That is one of those things that can be addressed at a later time. Still on my list of “things I’d like to accomplish this year” is the replacement of all of the upstairs windows. I can think about the skylight at that time too. Also a new front door. I really want a new front door, too. πŸ™‚ The window people usually do doors as well. Again – that’s something for the fall. I figure maybe October/November time frame to replace the windows. It would be nice to have more energy efficient windows come the cold weather.

I believe that I have mentioned my dislike for the knob & tube wiring in our house. The K&T struck again. We knew that the dining room chandelier was down the line from the kitchen K&T. skylight with high hatsThe electrician had come up with an ingenious solution for getting the dining room back online once we replaced the kitchen K&T. I’m going to spare you the photos and diagrams that would explain this, because – spoiler alert!! – we didn’t do that anyway. I’m sharing it so you can truly appreciate the nuances of replacing K&T. By the way, 3 knowledgeable folk have told me that K&T is SAFER than the current approach. I have NOT understood their explanations but they have all assured me this is so, and they are people who would know. The explanations for why insurance companies won’t insure homes with K&T make as little sense to me as do the explanations for why K&T is safer, but we do what needs to be done to get the permits from the township.

The plan was to take the new up-to-code wiring from the kitchen and run it up the wall to the ceiling, where it would hang a left and go into the breakfast room area. At THAT point it would hang a right and go outside the house, secured to the siding by tubing. I was told that there would be no problem with this if/when we replace the siding. Once the new wire was in line with the dining room chandelier, it would hang a right and head back into the house in the ceiling. They would take down the chandelier and hook it to the new wiring. If all went well, and if they had a clear sight line through the ceiling, they would even send the new wires straight through the ceiling to the sun room, where they would put the ceiling fan/light on the new wiring. You remember the new fan in the sun room, right? That’s what started all of this a year ago. πŸ™‚

Well, the best laid plans and all of that. When they went to replace the K&T in the kitchen, they discovered that the hot wire and the neutral wire did NOT go in the same direction in the dining room. dining room ceiling PLEASE, do NOT ask me to explain what that means. The hot wire went up the wall, hung a left, went down to the switch in the dining room and then up to the chandelier. The neutral wire did not accompany the hot wire on this venture. No, apparently the neutral wire went straight across the dining room and somehow met up with the hot wire near or at the chandelier. In other words – we couldn’t redirect as planned because we wouldn’t have all of the parts available.

The electricians were very apologetic and sorry and, to be fair, as unhappy as I was, but for different reasons, I’m sure. They needed to cut open the dining room ceiling to figure out where the neutral wire was exactly. We discussed all the permutations and as long as they were cutting open the ceiling in the dining room, we agreed to take the new wiring all the way to the sun room and get that done properly as well. That meant a hole in the ceiling and wall of the sun room. This is where again, they know what they are talking about and I imagine something else. That happened in the breakfast room when they said they’d “open the ceiling” and I didn’t realize I was going to lose the whole ceiling and get to beams. That worked out well for me, however. I was imagining the same “rip it all the way open” approach in my dining room as well. Nothing like that. They marked out sections to cut, hoping that they’d hit gold in the first one or two sections.

sunroom ceilingThey covered everything in the dining room with plastic, hung a big plastic sheet between the dining room and the living room, and proceeded to cut away. As you can see in the pictures, the openings are NOT very large (well, not compared to what I was imagining). It just means more painting at the end of the job to get the dining room and sun room cleaned up. In the meantime, I am almost completely free of K&T on the first floor!!!! The front hall light (and I suspect therefore the front porch light) and a few wall sockets are the only K&T left on the first floor. I’m hoping that when we go to deal with them, it will be a non-event. I hope. Please.

So the good news is all of that got done. We had our rough electrical and plumbing inspections last week and passed. I love how we pass the electrical with the wires all hanging down in the basement. aliens in the basementJim and I do need to go down there for laundry, and some other supplies, and we’ll need to empty out all of the STUFF we have stored there for the congregational rummage sale. Yay – we can bring our donations now!!! But we will have to weave our way through the alien life forces that have emerged from the basement ceiling and have congregated around the foot of the stairs.

We’ve started Week #6 and we are making progress. The next thing to be done is to get past the building inspection. I think I understood that means that all the holes around the wires need to be fire-stopped (plugged with fire-retardant material). And I *think* we may get the insulation put in before that too. But our township seems to only inspect on Wednesdays so despite the fire-stopping being completed, I doubt much will happen for another week or more, since the next Wednesday is July 4th. I rather doubt any inspectors will be here on July 4th. But once we pass this point now we start ADDING things instead of REMOVING things. We get walls, then a floor, and then appliances, and then cabinets…. It’s really happening!
approvals

Return to Renovations

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When last we left our heroine, she was remarking on the widened passage to the breakfast room, the emergence of the white cat, and hoping her husband liked sloped ceilings.

WC is still doing fine, and still throwing periodic hissy fits of hiding to remind us that she does NOT like change and does NOT like the new living conditions. On the other hand she is eating, drinking and producing output, even if she IS refusing any cuddling (wrong chair – she can only be cuddled on the downstairs furniture). IMG_8606As you can see, she’s just fine. BC and GC are fine too, although there seems to be a slight dispute over who sleeps with me. BC prefers to be on or between my calves, whereas GC prefers β€œnext to”. BC understands the concept of sleeping in (at least until 6:30) and the concept that turning over in the middle of the night does NOT mean I’m awake. GC believes that ANY time is good for a cuddle and will purr in my ear, or lean over to tickle my face with her whiskers. If I roll over she will begin meowing to remind me that she is there to be cuddled. As GC never used to sleep with me, BC is a bit annoyed. I would not be surprised if one of these days I wake to a bit of caterwauling.

I’m still thrilled with the wide opening between the 2 rooms. It feels much more like a single room. Version 2We now have a pocket for our pocket door. The door to the basement has always partially blocked the big bay window over the sink. As the door stands open probably 98% of the time, it would be wonderful NOT to have it there. But for the 2% of the time that I NEED a door, I couldn’t get rid of the door. Solution: pocket door. The pocket door is one of the ways we chose our contractor. Contractor J didn’t think it was a good idea and wanted a folding door. Contractor M said good idea, yes, we can do that. πŸ™‚ Contractor M pretty much heard EVERYTHING I said even though I didn’t think he was listening. Contractor J ignored 3 of my key requests. Anyway, the pocket went up amazingly quickly. It necessitated removing 2 radiators (boiler/hot water system, 12 old cast iron radiators in the house). The front hall (yeah, I haven’t mentioned that little bit of this project) and the kitchen will have something more modern and stream-lined for heat.

IMG_8506I think that the same day they built the pocket they also framed out the cabinets. I had a long chat with the foreman yesterday and learned something I’d not noticed and probably never would have noticed. πŸ™‚ Apparently the (sewer?) pipe that runs from the upstairs bathroom down to the basement has an unsightly bulge. Now in some houses and pipes that unsightly bulge would have placed itself a little higher, a little lower. Not in our house. Never in our house. (Have I mentioned we hit another knob & tube wiring issue?) IMG_8567 In OUR house the unsightly bulge is right where our (gorgeous) backsplash is to be. The foreman dealt with this by framing out the cabinets about an inch further out than had there been no bulge. This does leave a gap between the existing tiled bay window and where things will now be, but that will be addressed with additional wood framing. πŸ™‚ I LOVE having competent, intelligent, forward-thinking contractors. This crew (foreman, electricians, carpenters, plumbing) have been simply fantastic. Innovate, responsive and cheerful. Which leads me to my sloped ceiling.

Much to my surprise and dismay my husband, the structural engineer, DID have an issue with a sloped ceiling. Keep in mind that the description I provide next is a non-engineer attempting to convey an engineering lesson. IMG_8592 Apparently if you remove the cross beam supports of the flat ceiling, you will have pressure on the bay window wall, causing it to bow outward. At the time when we discussed this I had no price estimate for the job, I had no reason to create marital discord and I let it drop. I was disappointed but knew that there were other things I’d want to champion and I’d already lived with the (wrong) flat ceiling for over 20 years. This past weekend we got the quote for doing the sloped ceiling. I wrote back to them and mentioned my husband’s issue with the slope and asked them to explain how they would deal with that downward-outward pressure. Yesterday the foreman and construction chief came by and discussed plans with my husband. To my everlasting gratitude, he agreed with their proposals and said that their adjustments addressed his concerns and we could go ahead. YAY!!!!!!! IMG_8593 My husband then took off for work leaving me to discuss all the OTHER issues: ways around our latest K&T issue, placement of switches, the fact that our electrical sub-panel is not up to code (the way they put it in 20 or so years ago), despite all the permits stuck on it, and what we’re going to do about modern radiators. There may have been a few other things but those were yesterday’s top items.

Today has been a day of hammering and power on and off and calls of “can you see if I’m on the right side?”. I had a long chat with the chief electrician and, oh what a surprise, we are adding another update to this job. For decades I’ve had a switch to turn on the deck lights on my deck (small, low wattage bulbs mounted under the bottom rail of the railing). The switch works fine but the lights don’t. πŸ™‚ We will get new deck lighting and have that done while the insides are ripped open. ka-ching, ka-ching. And one day I’ll describe what we hope to do in the front hall…….

Siri on bed

Two Steps Forward

IMG_8525One step back, but then forward again. Which means that progress is being made. Let’s deal with the most important gains first.

WC, although still extremely angry, has relented sufficiently to allow us to see her during daylight hours. I’ve found her secondary hiding spot (in the office under a table behind a box) as opposed to the primary spot under our bed. She has even deigned to come and eat in the food room 2 out of 3 days. For breakfast that is. She’s still not convinced it’s safe to eat there for dinner. And that means that we are still serving her dinner in whichever room is her safe zone at the time – bedroom or office. Yes she has us VERY well trained.

IMG_8524GC and BC appear to be fine. BC is happy if we are upstairs with her. GC is happy as long as she gets fed and petted. Last night we were tossing rolling toys for BC to chase up and down the hall. I thought for one fleeting moment there GC might actually run, too. Hah! πŸ™‚ They are eating, complaining, playing, providing output and in general they seem to be adjusting. I’m not going to say any of us LIKE this setup as a permanent option, but it really gives me peace of mind during the day when doors are open all over and there is a lot of noise.

This week has been about plumbing and electricity. I knew something happened with the plumbing on Tuesday while I was out. You can’t fool ME, experienced homeowner that I am. Version 2I turned on the faucet and there was that familiar spitting air-in-the-line action that we all know from water being turned off. Wednesday I actually met 2 of the plumbers. They drained the radiators. Sigh, I spent thousands of dollars in March to put in a new boiler, which necessitates draining and refilling. Had I but known then what I know now, I could have done the radiator work then. More importantly, they removed the pipes that used to be behind some cabinets. This is EXTREMELY exciting because removing those pipes enables us to widen the doorway between the kitchen and the breakfast room by about 21 inches. Of course I have no “before” photo that shows clearly the limited sight line from the kitchen to the breakfast room, but the ‘after’ picture thrills me. Anyone reading this who has been in the rooms will see immediately the difference the wider doorway makes. I think it pulls the 2 rooms together to make them feel much more like one room. The other thing you can see in the ‘before’ photo I did post is the horrible ugly wall paper that we lived with for 6 years before we did the addition. I circled it so you wouldn’t miss it, and drew an arrow to show what got removed to make the larger passageway.

Today I was expecting the plumbers back but no, it was the electricians. When I finally left my desk to go say hello, not only were the electricians here but Manny was here as well. IMG_8527We were chatting in the breakfast room and I mentioned that had I realized that they’d be ripping out everything in the ceilings, I’d have asked to have them change my breakfast room ceiling to a sloped ceiling (vaulted?). This is something that escaped me when we did the addition. I thought that by asking for a skylight, I’d get that sloped ceiling automatically. Not the case. Anyway, Manny is supposed to ask Don for an estimate. Manny, Eli (the electrician) and I all think it would look fantastic. πŸ™‚ And most importantly for me – would let in a LOT more light. I’m all about light as you can tell from the bay windows and the multiple banks of lights in the kitchen. I haven’t actually run this new idea by my husband yet….. Even if Don okays it, it might not happen. Apparently my husband does NOT like garbage disposals in the sink, so that idea was abandoned. I hope he likes sloped ceilings.

IMG_8528 (1)The “one step back” came as I ate lunch. Eating my salad, reading the paper, and the lights went out. They were cutting knob and tube wires. YAY!!!!! It’s a small price to pay – no light in the dining room – if it means getting rid of the K&T. πŸ™‚ Eli and Chris just left but they restored power to the dining room lights and outlets. We even tested the TV – which works. Of course I still can’t work the TV properly because sometime since the superbowl cable tv has dropped off the menu at the bottom of the screen. There is now some convoluted routine to get from netflix to cable and back again, but don’t ask me to do it. That’s DEFINITELY a step back but NOT one I can attribute to the renovation.

I was going to go stare at my beautiful wide opening between the rooms and smile. But as I typed this I heard a forlorn beeping coming at regular intervals. I’m hoping it’s the microwave. Or the coffee pot. Or something easily silenced.

Weather Swings Like a Pendulum Do

IMG_8515Apologies to Roger Miller but England is not the only thing swinging. Our weather is crazy. It seems that since January we swing between extremes. I’m sure we had an 80 degree day in February, then we had a nor’easter every week in March. April did nothing but rain, rain, rain. Or was that May? May was another month of back and forth – warm and sunny one day, back down in 50s (that’s Fahrenheit folks) and gray for the next 6. Yesterday we hit 87F and it was incredibly humid with bright bright sunshine. Until the rainstorm hit about 2pm. Today it struggled to reach 65, and the wind is blowing so strongly that our deck umbrellas were knocked over.

IMG_8489My cats “swing” too. Great success with WC yesterday – she came out and ate breakfast in the doorway of the food room. She even sat in the blueberry box in the hallway – a favorite cat resting place apparently. All 3 cats loved the blueberry box (8 pints of blueberries came in that box) so I made sure to bring it upstairs to be part of The Great Incarceration. Today – WC scorned breakfast and never even came out from under the bed for dinner.

I went out and bought a microwave yesterday – much smaller than our previous one, which is headed for the rummage sale. Trying to situate the new microwave properly was an adventure – we “swung” from level surface to level surface. My first choice was no good because we couldn’t make the cord reach. I opted against my second choice because I realized the refrigerator was on the same outlet. IMG_8490The third surface was the charm but necessitated me reorganizing some of the dining room so that the cord would reach the outlet.

In the garden I noticed that the deer not only attack my hibiscus, but they appear to be eating the white wave petunias in the hanging baskets and also the tops off of the purple-leaf-thing-that-has-yellow-flowers. Something also feasts on the sweet potato vines. So I got out my cayenne pepper and covered them all. I like this approach because I grow a lot of herbs and vegetables and even if we missed washing off ALL the cayenne it won’t hurt us. And besides – the commercial repellents are truly repellent – for us, too. Which reminds me, I forgot to spray the ferns out back with the truly repellent chemicals. It’s rained (of course) since I did it last. But it’s WAY too windy to attempt that now.

IMG_8517There have been some minor successes and improvements. I ATE my first home-grown strawberry. πŸ™‚ You can see it in the picture but it’s not there anymore. My new porch railings are up and they are GORGEOUS. My Rudbeckia Laciniata Hortensia arrived and got planted. I finally remembered to get the plant supports out of the garage and brace the spiderwort. I planted two canna lilies where the wretched weeds wandered in. I bought a plastic dish rack for sitting on top of the washing machine in the basement – our new dishwashing location. (Notice the preponderance of garden tasks as opposed to indoor tasks.)

Today was given to a few more errands, still trying to make our renovation existence as smooth as possible. Somehow that also involved buying 2 new pairs of shoes….. It’s not MY fault that the shoe store is next to the BB&B store.

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