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.

Rurally Streaming - January 2016

Ah, Jersey City. It has its benefits: delicious Indian food, Shepard Fairey murals, a dollar store called 99 Cent Dream. Its drawbacks include noise from construction, little green space, and lots of people who make additional noise. So when I'm here, I like to escape a bit, through TV, books, and movies.

Someday, Netflix will get around to creating an "Agrarian Drama" category. But until then, there's Rurally Streaming, a series in which I round up streaming video for country mice. This first edition focuses on the English countryside.

1. Pride and Prejudice (2005)

There are many P&P adaptations out there. What I like about this one is the presence of the Bennet family farm, and how it's chaos is manifest through the messiness of the house, the giggling of the daughters, and the raucousness of the country dance. At one point a giant hog is walked through an inside hallway (presumably on his way to being slaughtered), and no one syas a word! I love all the falling-down hairdos and mud, too.

2. Detectorists (2014)

I've been a Detectorists evangelist for a few weeks now. This is a quiet series about contemporary men with messy lives, who search for treasures in the ground and almost never find them (but that doesn't mean they're not there!). Lovely, and life-affirming.

3. Far From The Madding Crowd (2015)

This one's actually streaming on HBO Go. I could probably write an essay about this, my feelings are so complicated. I was a big Thomas Hardy devotee in high school (weren't we all?) so it's hard for anything to stack up. I think this adaptation of the 19th-century novel should have been a mini series, not a movie, not only because I like watching TV for 8 hours straight, but because this book, like many of Hardy's, was first published as a serial. I find this to be a pretty romanticized picture of the country, and sort of unconscious of the irony of the title, (Far From the Madding Crowd = away from the frenzied drama of the city; funny considering the melodrama that occurs). But quite beautifully shot, nonetheless.

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.