Renovation Diary: Thwarted

I guess it was inevitable, after last week's successful destruction. The grand plans we had for this weekend — finish painting the first floor, have the junk hauler pull the 200 plus pound fireplace out, demolish the hearth, makeover some sconces that were offending Matt’s aesthetic sensibilities, get our couch delivered, and maybe start laying some of the flooring in the living room — were mostly unaccomplished come Monday.

This weekend brought a mass of polar air, and brought the temperature down (and down) to the negatives. Meaning, the pipes were frozen on and off all weekend, and we were running in and out all weekend to get water, and more water, and a new space heater.

The extreme cold meant the junk hauler rescheduled, and without the fireplace gone we couldn't remove the hearth, or really start the flooring.

No problem, I thought. I’ll used this time to work on those sconces, the style of which Matt describes as a mashup of old lady and the old west (the old western lady look?).

I removed the glass shades and detached the electrics easily enough, but that marked the end of my success. These things were built to last. No amount of smashing or sawing or pliers-ing would remove those thin seeming arms meant to hold the glass shades.

Sconces 1, Emily 0.

We did do a lot of painting, and the couch arrived, so it wasn’t a total wash. I think this is the nature of renovation. It’s the thing that I learn over and over: everything takes longer than you think it will. Double or triple that if you're relying on anyone else to play a part too. It’s a lesson not just for houses, but of course, for life.

1 star. I've learned enough life lessons for now.

Renovation Diary: Demolition Derby

This was a big weekend for demolition. The spots in question, the fireplace and propane heater, started like this:


And ended the weekend like this:

prefab fireplace removal

And in the middle there was this:

Matt helped me get started, and then I tackled the cement slab that the old propane heater used to sit on, while he dismantled the fireplace.

Breaking up the slab consisted of shimming it up with a pry bar, and breaking it into bits with a hammer. Once I got ways in, I realized that the whole thing was being held together with a web of rebar that disappeared into the floor. This presented a new and interesting challenge that I was excited to explore.

rebar under concrete slab

Read, Matt and I both told the slab it could fuck off.

Spurred on by my soundtrack (Beat on the Brat, notably), I dutifully continued smashing, and when I was almost done noticed one of the rebar bits was wiggling. So I wiggled it (just a little bit) more, and attacked it with the pry bar. One corner popped up, and we were in business.

Of course, this meant there were six nickle sized holes in the floor. I stuffed these with peppermint oil soaked cotton balls and steel wool to discourage and hopefully prevent mice from coming in these particular entrances.

After about 4 hours of hammering, this is what we had:

Matches are from relighting pilot light after the dust from the concrete extinguished it.

Matches are from relighting pilot light after the dust from the concrete extinguished it.

I must say, I found destruction oddly empowering. And even though it's all still a mess, this was a big step toward getting more fun things done, like painting and putting in the cork floor. It already feels brighter and bigger.

4 stars, despite the fact that I could barely move the next day.

Renovation Diary: An Introduction

It's winter, allegedly, and since we can't get started on our most exciting projects yet (did someone say WILDFLOWER MEADOW?!) we're instead turning to the most pressing first: getting the house in shape.

The house was built in 1974 -- a good year for safety stuff, like lead paint and asbestos, but, and I think this is a purely objective statement, a less-than-good year for aesthetics.

We're lucky that the house is generally in pretty decent shape, so much of what we're dealing it will be cosmetic. (Hopefully.)

Here's a little peek of how the house looked when we first saw it, back in August:

The house was a little like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree: it just needed love. We got started right away with phase 1 of the reno. Can ya guess what that was?

Yes, it was removing the carpet. Here's a great tutorial on removing carpeting, the pad, and the tack strips. I definitely recommend using a dust mask, and even safety glasses, if you're removing a carpet that has, erm, known our rodent friends. Read: there was a lot of flying mouse poop when we ripped up the carpet. Also an inordinate number of dead ladybugs.

And, it takes a bit longer, but I also recommend cutting the carpet into 18 inch strips as you rip it up, and then rolling and taping the strips -- that way, you can toss the rolls in the regular garbage. No dumpster needed.

I feel compelled to reduce these home improvement tasks to a simplistic rating system, so here:

RATING: 3 stars -- carpet removal is easy, and makes a big impact quickly. The job is only as gross as your carpet is. Which in my case, was very very gross.