Archive for the ‘Home Repair’ Category

And update to remodeling

Here we are, two month after we’ve closed, and our house is still a disaster.  I’ve been putting off updates on the condition of the house simply because I really don’t want pictures of our ransacked house spread across the internet!

But we did install the bamboo floors and the windows I talked about, though if you compare the picture I posted (from Lumber Liquidators’ Website) to the actual floor, you can see the floor color is quite different.  I’m not sure why that is, but when I complained to my husband, he said the sample in the store of our floors was almost the same as what we got.

Lesson learned:  Don’t buy hardwood floors off the internet.

The bamboo floors in our living room.

Don’t get me wrong, they are beautiful floors.  But they show everything – and I have two boys (and a little girl on the way in May), two cats and a husband.

I think we have a couple mice, too.

Needless to say, I am trying to teach the kids and reteach my husband to take off their shoes at the door!  (I grew up in Minnesota where this is standard practice.  Husband grew up in coastal North Carolina where it is common to leave the shoes on until you climb in bed at night.)

But we do love the floors (I think my husband loves them even more because they are darker!) and they are holding up very well.  We were pleased at how easy they were to install, so I definitely recommend them – just make sure you see the color in person before you order!

We still have a lot to do, especially cosmetically.  The windows are in, but we have to come up with the money to trim the sills still.  We’ve spent that on other, more necessary repairs, like the leaky water spigot outside!

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I will admit, our electricity bill last month was $550!  Not much better than the $600 electric bill I mentioned our neighbor had a past winter.  This set off yet another flurry of draft-searching and we’ve changed the way we do a few things.  My husband went under the house and repaired some of the venting that was dangling incorrectly and reinsulated a few things in order to improve efficiency, and I’m pretty sure the bedrooms are as air-tight as a house from 1905 can be!

The fact that this is one of the coldest winters on record really isn’t helping us!  We did crunch some numbers, and realized that our winters in Ohio were no cheaper, but because of how we paid for it (usually up front for heating oil) we didn’t think of it as a monthly expense.  Thankfully, last month the bill was $300 – half of this month’s bill.  So I can expect that as long as it doesn’t keep acting like Ohio in Tennessee, we’ll see that this isn’t the norm!

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I could easily go on and on about our repairs, but those are the significant ones that actually pertain to this blog.  As for the others, well, some like hanging shelves and pictures are truly cosmetic and just daily life.  Others, like installing a HE washer and dryer set, a new fridge, and CFL bulbs, are certainly within the scope of my blog but just so very obvious.  I don’t feel they are really worth mentioning.
Anyone want to come swing a hammer? LOL

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New Windows and Flooring for the house

Well, our closing on our house has been delayed until we can complete some major repairs to satisfy our lenders.  Everything is working out fine, though I’m getting a bit impatient to get back into my own space rather than usurping my parents’ dining room table!

My husband B went on down to Nashville (my parents live in Minnesota) to do the repairs.  Over the weekend, he ripped out old flooring and discovered several interesting surprises – apparently the previous owner (PO) didn’t know which way to overlap shingles, so we’ll be ripping out some kitchen drywall to get rid of mildew and possibly mold.

He also bought the new windows to replace the original 1923 windows and new bamboo hardwood flooring.

I can’t say much now, because I have very little information on the windows, but I do know that they qualified for the US government energy credit.

The bamboo flooring?  I know it’s probably not sustainably harvested.  We actually bought it because it was: 1. the color we wanted; 2. actual hardwood and not laminate, and 3. because it was the price we wanted to/could afford to pay.  It will be beautiful, though:

Bamboo has been lauded as a green material because it’s a great alternative to traditional woods, very versatile, and regrows fast. It only takes about 4 years for bamboo to grow to maturity, while traditional woods take decades.  But what has happened is that many old growth bamboo forests have been harvested – even clear cut – to supply the demand for this revolutionary new wood.  When forests are clear cut (everything is cut down and then it’s sorted through for what the harvesters really wanted.) it leaves the ground bare and rootless.  When winter rains come, it creates the perfect storm of mudslides, erosion, and just general chaos.

Until there are enough bamboo farms to supply demand, and until we demand bamboo grown only sustainably, this practice will probably continue.  (And as you know, I’m a culprit, too – there was no information on the hardwood floors to tell me how the bamboo was grown and harvested.)

And that really brings me to another problem – either manufacturers don’t realize we want to know how it was grown or they realize that when it comes down to it, many of us just can’t afford the time or money to look at that when we buy.  In the first case, we need make manufacturers aware of our concern.

The second?  Well, I’m not sure what to do about that, yet.  It’s a very real social concern as well.  And there will always be people like us, growing and learning to be “green,” who when faced with either getting the unknown or waiting months to close while finding the perfect, sustainable, affordable product, will choose to close on the house sooner.  But the convenience of “green” is a topic for another day, I suppose!

So to sum it up: our “green” score is not great so far, but I suppose it’s better than it could be.  The windows are going to make a huge difference in the electricity bills.  (Not-broken windows will do that!)  And the floors are still a fast-growing hardwood that should last at least 30 years according to the warrenty, so less waste will come from replacing them down the road.

Next: paint and light fixtures.  And how to use what you have and still get your dream kitchen.

Making More Efficient Homes

Now, I really am not one to be talking about this – I’m buying a home that (I was told by the neighbor) had a $600 electric bill last winter!

What?  $600 a month??  (I’ve said before, this house will be a great exercise in “greening” a property in an environmentally sound way – no bamboo floors, lol)

Let’s put that $600 a month in perspective…

The house is 1800 square feet. I’m pretty sure that despite what everyone is telling me, the square footage listed is only for the first floor.  The second floor, which you will see pictures of in a minute, isn’t liveable by a long shot.

Take a look at this picture:

Second Floor Crawlspace

What do you see?  That’s right!  No insulation. None.  Not at all. January temperatures average a low of 30 – that means a TON of heat is escaping through the attic.

Edit: It’s been pointed out to me by both my husband and a wonderful reader that there is insulation in the floor.  That was my oversight – I thought it was flooring.  That’s good news for the downstairs, but this crawlspace is the “closet” for the main bedroom upstairs, which means that the second floor is still largely uninsulated.

Okay, now check out this picture:

Upstairs Bedroom Windows

Upstairs Bedroom Windows

Okay, the plastic is a start.  Too bad it was put on in March, according to the stickers a professional winterizer put on all the windows.  And is the window broken?  Or is that just the storm window?  (And I’m aghast at that electric light hookup!)
Both of those pictures are from what will one day be the boys’ room.

But I’m not done yet!

One more:

The laundry room

The "laundry" room

That’s what became of the laundry room.  The man who owned the house before us was renovating it, and he seems to have known what he was doing, but he never got to finish.  Now, I’m not saying it’s a big contributor to that $600 electric bill, but that uninsulated water heater is sitting right in the line of fire every time someone opens up the back door on a cold day.  And that’s the main back door to the carport, so at our house, it will open and close constantly.

I’m also willing to bet money (except I don’t gamble) that the pipes under the house – it’s a crawlspace – are not wrapped.

So – the previous owner’s biggest mistake was probably sprucing up the living areas when the house desperately needed an energy efficiency makeover. (Of course, to give him the benefit of the doubt, the kitchen and baths were updated – they may have been unlivable when he moved in.)

That brings me to the WeeEssentials household plan of attack to be completed B.W.S. (Before Winter Strikes)

1. Replace all the windows with high efficiency windows. This will be expensive, but worth its weight in gold.  Also replace the front door and doorjamb, which the neighbor joked would fall off the hinges if you sneezed at it too hard.

2. Add lots and lots of insulation to the crawlspaces before framing in real closets (since that crawlspace above is what they considered the bedroom closet.)

3. The water heater will likely be removed entirely in lieu of an inline water heating system. An inline system would not only be more efficient, it will give us more space, which we desperately need in order to set up a laundry room that you can move around in.  There are two back doors just feet from each other, so eventually the door pictured above may be closed in.

4. Pipes under the house must be checked and wrapped. Even if we do the inline system, this will keep the pipes from both becoming even colder (requiring more electricity to heat) but also keep them from freezing if we have a cold snap.

5. Replace the HVAC unit and run ductwork to the rooms upstairs.  The HVAC unit is old (and probably not very efficient) plus it will not be able to handle the extra load put on it by the additional upstairs ducts.

6. Have fireplace/chimney professionally cleaned and repaired if necessary.  A damper that doesn’t work lets warm air right up the chimney and out of the house!

These are the main things – I’m sure we’ll do many smaller things too, like placing rugs on uncarpeted areas to give the impression of warmth and replacing old lightbulbs with CFLs (or, more likely, replacing the entire – missing – fixtures.)

It should be an interesting journey. I plan to document our restoration/renovation – a “true” green renovation.  I don’t expect that we will do it perfectly, that we will be perfectly green, but I look forward to an opportunity to take a house that sucks resources and make it efficient!
I welcome any suggestions!

More Than Meets the Eye – Kitchen Renovation, Part 1

My husband B and I have been talking quite a bit about what we want to do with the kitchen. Until very recently, it could be considered many things – “vintage,” “retro,” “original.” We’ve put off doing it while focusing on moving bedrooms and offices around to accommodate the new baby and to fix other things around the house. So it remained a bit of an eyesore, and you know how it is with eyesore rooms – they become a catch-all room, too. After all, what is a little more clutter when the room already looks so bad?

About two weeks ago, I noticed that not only was the vintage-garden-themed wallpaper falling down, it was very easy to take off. It was as if the paper was hanging only by a residual bit of dried up glue. I pulled the corner of a sheet down about a foot-and-a-half, until it hit the curtain rod. And I left it, much to the chagrin of B.

So this past Friday I heard the sound of wallpaper separating from wall, and when I went to investigate, my husband had, in the space of a few minutes, completely removed the paper from one wall. He suggested he would stop after that one wall, but I insinuated that I may not find that to be such a pleasing idea and that he’d better finish what he started. (LOL) About 20 minutes later, the room was done. I believe this was the house’s way of creating a truce between it and us – after all, it owes us for the two layers of 1940s paper in the hallway and the 3 layers in the downstairs bedroom (not to mention the burlap wallpaper in the living room we have yet to remove!)

B removing wallpaper from the first wall

B removing wallpaper from the first wall

Beautiful vintage wallpaper

Beautiful vintage wallpaper

Please don’t mind the mess – we have two kids!  And yes, that’s some of my handdyed sock yarn hanging there. I didn’t have the chance to take it down before he started, and now I’ll have to wash it…

I actually liked this wallpaper quite a bit.  Just not so rampant and all-inclusive!   It clashed with the cabinets, and really only looked good in the breakfast area I showed above, which was where it started falling down.

(Again, ignore the mess.  Remember what I said about “catch-all” rooms?  This one has been really bad in the past few weeks…)

The kitchen bar, covered with stuff!

The kitchen bar, covered with stuff!

Everything - including the kitchen sink

Everything - including the kitchen sink

So it’s been a busy weekend!  We’ve got the wallpaper down, but we’ve always thought the top cabinets were rather low – so once we got the wallpaper off, and our suspicions were confirmed, we decided to move them up the wall. Not only were the lower cabinets on a 4 inch base, making them higher (which we knew before) but the upper cabinets had been moved down 4 inches from their original spot!  The original installers had drawn lines on the plaster that was still visible. So we’ve been moving the cabinets back up.  The room feels bigger and lighter already, and our efforts have cost us nothing but a box of screws to replace the old stripped ones.  Three more cabinets to go!  (I hear my husband working again, so I’d better go help!)

I’ll post pictures of our “new,” unpainted, still cluttered kitchen soon.

The lesson?  Does there have to be one?  Okay – here it is – I’m rather obsessed with home decorating magazines.  Though I know the rooms in those homes are about as real as the models in Vogue, I want my home to look pretty!  But I also don’t need to spend extravagant amounts of money or buy all new things to make my home look something like those magazines (with a child-driven tornado included, of course!)  Sometimes, recreating a home is just that – take something you already have and move it, change it, or even get rid of it.  It creates a brand new feel.

So, anyone want some vintage wallpaper?  Otherwise, I’m freecycling it along with all the things we don’t use anymore.

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