Wednesday, April 29, 2015

What Else is Gone

The demolition is starting to wrap up and the rebuilding is beginning. Before we move on here are of a few of the miscellaneous parts of the house that do not exist anymore.

You already knew the wall was gone (thanks to me!) but now...

so is the floor, which is a bit sad because it was nice slate and I would have given it to the salvage people, but unfortunately slate is very fragile and cannot be removed without breaking into pieces.

And the wall with the lovely gold flocked wallpaper?

Will soon become part of the guest bathroom and the entrance to Mr. G's office.

Then there was one of those things that happen when you buy an older home. The kitchen floor has an odd slope- not the entire floor, just one area near the patio doors. The problem is that the concrete 'patio' also slopes- towards the the doors. Concerns that this could be causing the problem means we opted to remove the patio, even though it was not initially planned. It was so ugly here is the only photo I could find:

Remember our lovely falling down fence? It hides the lovely concrete slab described as a patio.

All the concrete, gone. Gone girl gone.

It's been a long haul but the last of the demo for now is done so check back on Friday to see the biggest change of all.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Three Closets into One

If you remember, one of the major drawbacks with the house was the whole master suite concept—there was none. That is starting to change and the most noticeable area is what will be the master closet. What we had was this: 

There is also a linen closet in the hall to the immediate right of the bedroom door.

My first baby efforts to turn two bedroom closets into one.

In case you forgot there was also this odd space in the garage that backs up into the closets in the master bedroom :

Now that space and the linen closet look like this.

And the view from the garage is now this!

 This would make getting out of bed and heading out easy, but not very secure. 

Looking inside out.

How important is closet space to you? If you had the closet of your dreams what would you fill it with?

Friday, April 24, 2015

Kitchen Demolition: The Final Goodbye

I promise this is the last you'll hear about the kitchen, mostly because it's gone.

Remember this photo from last week? As a newbie I thought this was as busted up as it gets but no...

THIS is as busted up as it gets. These are the outer walls of the house and that's the floor stacked up in the corner.

This was the wall where the fridge stood. Notice how it aligns with the patio door? That means the new fridge, oven, and cabinets would block the light from the backyard and the view from the front of the house which would not be great. So...

 I graciously allowed Mr. G to have one of the closets in my office-to-be to hold all his kitchen 'stuff'. The studs you see will become the back wall of the kitchen. I am that kind of giving person.

I guess it won't come as a surprise that everything is moving much more slowly than we wanted. Still to come, more of the house disappears.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

More Demotion: Guest Bathroom

Well, Mr. G and I gave it our best shot but the professionals have taken over. First to go was the guest bathroom.

Remember this well-lit, 19602 wallpapered, oh-so-pink guest bath?

This is what's left. No more vanity, no walls. Just lots of plumbing- all of which is going to go away as well.

All that's left is the tub and I'm glad I'm not the one who has to remove that.

This is not so easy to visualize but I'm looking from the front hall through what was the hall closet into what was the closet in the 2nd bathroom. Long story short...this is all going to be the new guest bathroom.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Kitchen Demo: Almost Finished

As much as I hate to admit I can't do everything by myself I have to concede that sometimes a man and power tools are needed to really make a difference. Mr. G was at the house with me and while I took down the entry way wall he tackled the kitchen. Ill stop talking and let the photos tell the story.

Here is the kitchen after my efforts.

Mr. G in action. So much for the counters that I was told would take a professional to remove.

Seeing this level of water damage would be scary except that everything is coming out so it doesn't matter.

Suddenly, no counters and no sink.

Now, not only no sink or countertops...nothing left but the curtains.

The second side starts to come apart. 

And then:

And now even the wall is gone. The house is getting lighter and brighter all the time.

What it was...and what it is.

All that's left of the kitchen is the floor and some drywall and who knows how long that will last?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Right Lighting

You decide to buy a home and remodel it. You pick people whose work  looks like what you want and with whom you get along. The process begins and you sign off on drawings and things move ahead. Then you start hearing numbers—not just proposed numbers but what things really cost. And despite being a woman who used to love to shop (I lobbied for it to become an Olympic sport but the committee got all uppity with me) you quickly learn that you have NO idea the  cost of the basic items that go into a house. Today’s wake up call: the electrical plan. 

©Anderson/Collier Architects
Our plans. Bold circles are recessed lights. The dotted lines indicate the path to the switch that controls that light.

If you can’t quite tell from the drawing the majority of our lighting is coming from recessed lights. This is because it is a midcentury look and because our ceilings are a bit low- 8’, which means Mr. G can touch with the ceiling with his fingertips. When this was shown to me, I gave it a quick look and said, “Sure, fine, if this is what we need to have.” Now we are beginning the electrical work and I’m looking at prices and guess what? Recessed lighting is the most expensive kind you can use! Which is a bit bizarre to me because I don’t think of it that way but obviously, I’m wrong. Now it is track lighting that is considered out-of-date. I haven't even kept up with shoe styles so how can I be expected to know these things?!

It appears to me now that the architect has this house lit up like the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. That might be fine if we didn't want lamps anywhere in the house but that’s not the case. In some rooms I prefer floor or table lighting—namely the bedroom. In others, like the bathrooms, there will be wall fixtures so why have an  overhead light as well? Plus, no female architect would put an overhead light directly above the vanity because no woman applies make-up lit from above. Can you say, unflattering to the extreme? It automatically adds ten years to your face.

©Anderson/Collier Architects

So, finances aside (all right, partly aside) here are my changes (using hot pink Xs so it doesn’t seem so harsh on my part). In the master bedroom we'll have lamps on the nightstands so I'm removing those two lights. The light in the master bath is right next to a window and we'll have wall lights. And now that I think about it, do we even need the overhead light above the toilet? It's not that big a space. As for the three hall lights, I'm cutting those because the railing and stairs will be a focal point and one of the few places in the house where we can have a hanging light fixture. Also, each of the closets has a light inside so why have a light directly outside?

Of course,  all of these will necessitate another set of drawings. My bad.

Your turn: what kind of lighting does your house have? Do you like it or would you like something different?

Monday, April 13, 2015

The First Wall Comes Down

Big weekend at the house. After consulting with the contractor I decided it was time to tear down the wall. Not in Berlin, because its already down, but in the house. 

Remember this wall and the fact that it's not staying?

Even though I've been dismantling some drywall with my trusty hammer and crowbar, Mr. G felt it was time to up my game so he introduced me to their bigger, more powerful brothers:

My new best friends: a 2lb sledgehammer and an I-don't-know-what-it's-called  

With their help I got after it:

The first breakthrough- it's the fireplace on the other side!

Drywall down. The bad news is- it is SO dusty. The good news is that with the sledgehammer and leverage you get bigger pieces more quickly. I'm ready to take down every wall in the place.

Ta da! Wall all gone. I did it all by myself- after Mr. G made sure the power to those outlets was off. So, yes, I am now taking down studs. Wait, that doesn't sound right. OK, wall studs. Let's keep it clean, people.

Speaking of clean, this is not very. The battered remains of a wall. I did sweep up after I finished which makes Mr. G laugh because he says I have "no idea" how dusty and dirty the house is going to be for the next two months.

Friday, April 10, 2015


It’s been two weeks and I’ve been very good about posting all things related to home renovation but while the demo is nowhere near finished, I’m under pressure to make all kinds of other decisions. So, while I'd like to be looking at things like this: 

Oh so pretty!

I'm supposed to be looking at this:

How many kinds of door handles are there?

And while I'm supposed to be deciding which of these I'd like:

They're DOORS, why so many options? Fir or alder? Natural or painted? Flat or recessed panels?

I'd much rather be deciding which of these I'd like (forget that I can't afford any of them):

Whether or not I have anywhere to wear any of these is irrelevant; they're fabulous.

Truly, I had no idea the amount of decisions that would need to be made. It is exciting to be in control of exactly how your house is going to look but...hinges? Really?? I want them to work, to hold the door in place and make it open and close. Beyond that, how it 'looks' doesn't matter to me in the way that the right shoe does. It's called priorities. 

It's your turn: Are you more interested in style for yourself or for your home? 

Custom Copenhagen glass sink or Marchesa jeweled clutch?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Demolition: Ceiling

When you buy an older home there is always going to be issues. Some of them you know before you even buy the home— like this one in the downstairs bathroom. Something obviously leaks from the bathroom upstairs but at least we know it has to be dealt with and as all those pipes will be replaced when that bathroom is gutted the problem will be fixed. In the interim, the ceiling needed to come down and I’m the woman for the job.

Even in the real estate photos they didn't try and hide the damaged tiles.

Up close and personal:

This would be my first foray into removing ceiling tiles and while we knew from our contractor that they were not asbestos-based the amount of fiber dust raised in their removal meant I'd need to wear a mask. Which means, you get the one and only selfie from this renovation:

Forget that this is hideous these masks are so uncomfortable. It's hard to breathe and they heat up, making my nose run. It's a whole lot of charming.

I don't know how ceiling tiles are generally attached but once again 1950s builders go the extra mile. These tiles were not only glued but were also nailed into pieces of sheetrock attached to the joists. First I had to remove the tiles and then then I had to remove the sheetrock which was also nailed in place. And when you pull the sheetrock down it comes with 60 years of dust. I know I should be thankful there wasn't anything worse than that but still, it's a lot of dust. On a fashion note, sheetrock dust makes a great dry shampoo and makes your hair look thicker.

 Nothing left now but joists, pipes, and vents.

Water damage. Looks old and all this sub-flooring is going anyway so no real worries.

Have you ever had to deal with water damage in your house?

Monday, April 6, 2015

Demolition: Bathrooms

With the kitchen as demolished as I can get it without power tools I decided to move on to the bathrooms. Because the master bathroom is so much smaller and also not in the public area of the house I decided that starting there would be best although one frustrating 45 minute phone call with  our health insurance company did yield this result:

Yes, even when enraged I carefully pried each tile off the wall and then stacked them. This is not an efficient use of time or energy.

Demo digression here- I removed those tiles before the salvage company came because they wanted the faucet from that bathroom. This became lesson #1 for anyone considering doing their own demo or renovations: if you think it is easy and "not a problem" you're in for big trouble. When the very experienced salvage guy removed this faucet and unhooked the hoses, the water was dripping a bit. When he tried to shut off the cold water completely, the valve handle broke off. At which point we needed a bucket- not because water was gushing but it was steadily dripping. Then he said I would need to keep checking it every couple of hours because the bucket would fill up. Uhhhmmmm...we don't live in the house so what am I going to do? He said something about capping the end with a plug I could get at Home Depot and all I'm hearing is, "Blah, blah, J is out of the country and I've really messed up now, what am I going to do?"

Thankfully, salvage dude managed to twist the hose into the drain pipe so while the water is still dripping (and we're paying for it unless we want to shut off the main) it is going down the drain. Problem solved! But I'll leave faucet removal in the rest of the house to the professionals.

Onto the master bathroom. First to go were the doors. Normally, professionals use a handsaw to cut into wood and break frames and jambs apart but I'm not up to the 'power' stage of things so, basically I have three best friends: screwdriver, hammer, and crowbar. They're slow but they get the job done.

This is the tiny closet on it's way out.  

Next I removed the mirrors (no smashing- bad luck and dangerous), and then I did start in on the tiles, only this time I did not delicately pry and stack them. 

The original wall color- from behind the mirror. It's an almost flesh-colored peach/pink. Not my favorite color.

Now for another lesson in the 1950s construction- one you'll get tired of hearing from me. They built the hell out of things! The thinset mortar tiles are now set in? Not what they used back then. Instead, as you can see below, they set counter tiles in solid CONCRETE. Yes. 

Thankfully, I did not swing a sledge hammer at this counter because I probably would have dislocated my shoulder or worse. I did this tiny bit of damage with the hammer and won't be attempting anything more.

Because counters, faucets, and vanity are beyond my abilities (for now) I moved onto taking apart the tiny closet. I don't want to impugn women's construction knowledge here  so I am only speaking for myself: WHY do you need so much wood and drywall for a closet smaller than a phone booth?! Once again, my love of home renovation television did me no favors. Everyone can punch a hole in drywall, right? Wrong. Very wrong. I made one tiny attempt, realized it was going nowhere and then, even using a hammer, could only manage this:
My first go-round of drywall removal. This was an hour of work and it's gross and dusty and bits fly everywhere. If you think it pulls off in big pieces, the answer is no. Not unless you are a burly guy named Rocco.

Here is what is left of the bathroom for now. J thinks at least one of the closet posts may be supporting something so he said I cannot remove anymore. I won't. For now.

The fun part about making all this mess? I don't have to clean up!

The results of my labor. It doesn't look like much but every bit helps.

Have you ever inadvertently cause a problem when you were trying to remove or fix something in your house?

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