Thursday, November 24, 2011

Let the Light Shine

Roof windows are awesome!!

Hole in the roof for the window

And I mean AWESOME! And yes, I said "roof window" not skylight! Our window actually opens. It has a crank that opens the window at an angle so we can get light and ventilation in an otherwise very dark bathroom. Here's a pic of it actually installed.

Originally, we had a window that was at the back of the attic. It was the window for the original attic fan. There were a few problems keeping the window there, however.
1. First of all, who wants a bathroom window that starts at your feet and goes to your chest. I guess you could anonymously walk around the bathroom naked without people looking in knowing who you are. They'd just see your body. Not really my thing though.
2. The window looked out onto our neighbor's backyard pool. Something I really don't want it to look out onto. And that kind of goes along with problem #1. Just think about it.
3. And the ultimate problem...that was the only place we could put the shower. Since it's an attic, the ceiling is highest in the middle and slopes downward. Because I have a somewhat tall husband, we have to have the shower in the center of the back bathroom wall.

This left us with an attic bathroom with no natural light. It felt like a cave. Our contractor recommended this Velux roof window and I couldn't be happier. It gives us the privacy we wanted with the natural light and ventilation that we needed. I love it! And, I don't know if you can see from the pictures but it looks onto this beautiful, old hickory tree in our side yard. It's leaves are green in these pictures but I can tell you that now it has these bright yellow leaves. I love having that tree to watch the seasons change. I can't wait to see snow on it's branches in winter.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Roof Window = Awesomeness

We have this awesome contractor. For example, the man knows we're on a tight budget so when he came across all this perfectly good insulation that he was ripping out at another job site, he called us and told us to bring the pick-up truck, haul it off, and it was ours. Saved him a trip to the dump and saved us a few hundred dollars.

We pretty much do everything he says, so when we were looking for a way to get some natural light in the master bathroom and he suggested a roof window, I said yes without even knowing what one is.

A roof window is an awesome invention and is NOT a skylight. It's an actual opening window on the roof. It cranks open at a 45 degree angle and lets in fresh air and tons of natural light to the bathroom. Ours is the Velux brand and looks a little like this one only smaller.

via FutureMinimalist
Here's ours. You can also get a gander at the free insulation we salvaged. Does this make us green? To reuse insulation and get an energy efficient window that will ventilate the bathroom so we don't have to run the fan as much?

Monday, November 21, 2011

On Your Mark, Get Set, DRYWALL!

As promised, here is an update and it just so happens to be about drywall. Did I ever think I would ever be writing about drywall? Um, no.

After the last real post where we ripped out all the walls in the attic, I only felt it appropriate to start there. It didn't take much time for the bare wood to be covered in that glorious stuff they call drywall. I could finally see actual living space starting to form. I may have ideas for what I want something to look like but I really suck at seeing it come together during the process. It's like I can only focus on what it should look like at the end. I get all confused during the middle parts. So you can imagine how excited I was when I could actually see how big rooms were going to be.

I do have to say I was pretty disappointed in the closet space. Our original plan had to be altered due to city codes. (I mean who really needs a door to the bathroom. Why can't you go through a giant closet to get there?) I ended up with a smaller closet that I have to share with Joe. In our current house, we have two master closets and his always has a funky smell coming from it. We've actually never had to share a closet before in our entire relationship. I'm a little worried. Not to mention our new closet is the size of one of our current master closets and mine is packed full. Again, I'm a little worried.

So here's some pictures...

What will be our new sitting room

Looking toward the stairs. You can see our hallway/closet on the left

Future Bedroom with our "Fat Fireman Window"

Future closet (hopefully we can get a handle on the "Joe Funk" before we move in

Bad pic of half of the bathroom. You can kind of see the shower to the left.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

So Much to Do

So, I've been sitting here looking at how long it's been since my last post and trying to figure out where all that time went and why I haven't posted. Truth is, we've actually been working our little tushes off trying to get this house in shape. I've been too exhausted at the end of the day to blog. I've actually stopped looking forward to the weekend and when people at work say TGIF, I actually groan imagining in my head all the tasks waiting for me as soon as that bell rings.

I look at my original list and laugh at myself. I look at that list now and see the hundreds of little projects that got left out. We've learned a lot already and still have a long road ahead of us before this house is where we want it to be. We're not even done with the renovation and we're already planning future projects (brickwork repair, water damage on the front porch, building a garage, ripping out every plant surrounding the house). It just doesn't end. And I know that it's just part of owning an older home. You always hear at least one saw fire up on the weekends in our new neighborhood and we frequently see our new neighbors in Home Depot. Again, just part of living in an older home/neighborhood.

I promise there will be more posts to come. In fact, I promise that I'll be posting one tomorrow night. I've got to get you all caught up.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Going Backwards

When we bought the house it was considered three bedroom, one bathroom, with loft space. We've always thought of that "loft space" as a bedroom since that is how it was always used. Joe's grandparents had five children and three bedrooms was obviously not going to be enough. At some point in the 1950's, Grandad Lyon built stairs in the hallway and a bedroom in the attic space. It is a pretty odd layout but made the most sense for what they needed (a room for two boys). You walk up the stairs and then there are bedrooms on the left and right. It is all open. He also added a lot of built-ins. Built-in desks on either side. Built in closets, cubby holes, and night stands. He added quite a bit of storage with all the built ins. He didn't even use half of the attic space, just enough for what he needed to do.

Here are some pictures. This was right in the middle of clean up/pack up so it is a little messy.

It was good enough for what they needed at the time but it wasn't what we needed. We need a second bathroom. We need a closet that a person can fit inside. We need a place for us. So, we decided that this space would become our Master Suite complete with bedroom, sitting room, walk-in closet, and bathroom. We will be using almost the entire attic space meaning our suite will be the size of the current house!

We are DIYer's at heart but we know when we have no idea how to do something...when a project is just too big for us. This project is huge and we needed a contractor. In the end we decided it would just be easier to just demo the entire space and start over. The walls weren't drywall, they were a type of paneling. The insulation in the walls was typical of the 50's and just not good enough by today's standards. The ceilings were low and featured fluorescent lighting. We all agreed it just needed to go.

So far they have reinforced the current beams and framed out the new walls in the bedroom. We also took down the walls separating the two "bedrooms" to allow for more light and cross-ventilation. We're raising the ceilings to  eight feet in the center.

The next step is to work on the attic space that will become the new bathroom and closet. I didn't take a picture of it for some reason but it pretty much looks just like the above pics just no floor. They have to add cross beams to support the bathroom so that section is taking a little longer.

Things are finally starting to happen!!!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

If You Gotta Go...You Gotta Go in the Backyard

So, now that things are wrapping up in the kitchen, Joe decided to demo the only current bathroom in the house. We're not living in the house currently since we're having trouble selling our other house so I wasn't worried about not having any running water for a few weeks. (We even have to go outside and run the water hose when we want to wash hands.)

Heres an original picture of the bathroom...

I know, I know, why even change. That bathroom is just so glorious in all it's goldenrod glory. It's just so perfect! Well one thing led to another and now it looks like this...

You think maybe Joe got a little carried away with the sledgehammer?

Truthfully, what happened was when we took down all that lovely wallpaper (as with the rest of the house) we found some major problems with the walls.  Unlike the other rooms, however, these walls were beyond repair. There was black mold everywhere. Plaster was falling off where they had nailed things in.

The bathroom had never been waterproofed. There wasn't a shower, only a tub. Someone had decided long ago to just attach a showerhead to the tub faucet and hang in on the wall on a hook. This lasted 40-50 years so it was no suprise when I took off the "cover-all flaws" wallpaper that the walls were so water damaged they were literally falling apart. Some plaster even came down with the wallpaper leaving exposed lathe. As into saving all the plaster walls as I am these walls were just too bad.

You can't see it in the pictures but there are also holes in the subfloor.  When Joe and Kyle took out the tub they said the floor was even a little "squishy". And did I mention there was absolutely NO insulation on that outside wall? None! Guess I know why my electric bill was higher for that house than my current one (and no one even lives there!).

So the plan for this bathroom is...
-new subfloor
-new clawfoot tub
-new toilet
-board and batten
-new medicine cabinet

The only thing we're keeping from this mess is the sink. I like the vintage vibe it gives the room. We're just going to clean it up and put it back in. So much for staying on budget.

BTW...gotta give mad props to Joe and Kyle for getting that old cast iron tub out all by themselves. They got it through the narrow doorway, hallway, through a bedroom, and into the living room/appliance graveyard. Its currently hanging out there along with the bathroom sink, old toilet, old kitchen sink, refrigerator, and stove. It's almost donation time. I hear the ReStore calling our name.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Granite Shmanite

So, as we've been renovating we've been trying to buy from local business owners as much as possible. I know it probably doesn't seem that way with all the Lowes trips we make but when it comes to big purchases we try to stay in town. When it came time to pick out countertops, we went with who the cabinet guys recommended...a local granite place.

Problem, I don't really like granite. Joe thought it was the bee's knees but I wasn't really on board. I tried to bite the bullet, I really did, but after seeing all that (IMO) ugly granite I just couldn't think of looking at that stuff for the next 20+ years. I know, I know...."but everyone wants granite" Well I don't.

So after moping through the granite slabs and taking home samples to throw around. I finally worked up the courage to admit to Joe that I just didn't care for the stuff. So, we started doing our research. We ended up deciding on quartz. I liked that there were more color options available and I wasn't stuck with brown or black. I also liked that they were more heat-resistant and I never have to seal them again...ever!

When we finally decided on quartz, we marched our happy selves to our local granite place and asked to see their quartz samples. They had only sold quartz a few times before so their samples were a bit lacking. In fact, I think they thought I was a little nutso for turning my nose up at their granite. I think I was reminded again at this point that "everyone wants granite" and "are you sure you don't want to look at the granite slabs one more time?" ugh.

They ended up ordering new samples just for little old us. We, of course, picked out the most expensive quartz they had...more expensive than granite. (At this point, I had a nervous smile plastered on my face because I could hear Joe's teeth grinding. One of my "selling points" on quartz was that is was the same price as granite so really what's the difference, right?) In the end, we agreed that the sell our child into slavery $$ quartz was the only way to go.

We left happy. The countertop people think we're a little crazy but that's ok.

The Slab
I drove by it every day on my way to work and waved to it.


Close Up...It really sparkles in the sun...not Edward Cullen sparkles, but sparkles nontheless

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Where Were We?

Previously, on Little House on the Hillcrest...

Joe was sanding floors using the awesome drum sander.
I was dancing around singing, "I can see the wood! No more adhesive!"
Nate was playing in sawdust with his trucks (because that's how he rolls).
The walls were patched, painted, and ready for the cabinet guys.
The cabinet guys were waiting on a big check.
We were waiting on a ssssllllloooowww bank to process our loan request.

And now....

The cabinet guys have our cabinets ready. Because we're cost cutters (mainly out of necessity) we opted to purchase custom built cabinet fronts to put on our existing "bones" (that's cabinet guy lingo). We had to go with custom built because our cabinets didn't have a consistent line anywhere. Every door was a different size and wasn't always the same width from top to bottom. Good thing we have friends in high places...friends that are related to cabinet guys.

We did opt to have them also build a pantry for us to go around the refrigerator. We figured after all that door building, we would let them have a little fun. Did I mention that our walls aren't straight? We sure presented them with a challenge.

Here are some before/after pics just so you can see progress...





Things are finally starting to happen. It looks a little funky with no countertops or hardware but I finally feel like something is being accomplished.

Oh yeah, don't worry about that ugly hanging light in front of the pantry. It's coming down...soon.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Drum Sander = Pure Awesomeness

I've learned a few things about sanders the past few weeks.

  1. The Varathane Sander that you can rent from the big box store is a joke. It's not powerful enough to do anything and we wasted an entire day with it. Not to mention the $$ we were out for renting it and buying all the pads.
  2. When you rent a sander, you want to go to the industrial "you rent it" place. You know, the ones with forklifts in the front. These sanders are pure awesome and the people that work there actually know what the hell they're talking about unlike that big box store (it starts with an L by the way).
  3. You want a drum sander. Ours was amazing. It was pretty much a big, heavy Baldor motor with sandpaper attached. Joe ran this bad boy and it must have been pretty hardcore because I've noticed some new definition in his arm muscles since we began the sanding process.
  4. You want an edger. This thing is pretty heavy itself and is guaranteed to work your booty as you work on the floors.
  5. It is a process.
We had to sand the kitchen like 8 times. We started with 18 grit sandpaper and realized that it was waaayyy too coarse. I was worried about us sanding all the way down to the subfloor with that stuff. Then we moved on to 24. That was the ticket. The adhesive left over from the tarpaper came up like no body's business. I think it was equally impressed by the drum sander and just surrendered to defeat. After we went over it twice with the 36, we moved on to 80, and then 100. Now the floors look AMAZING!

So Excited!!!

I don't know why dark spots are showing up in the picture. They aren't there in real life. Weird.

    Saturday, August 13, 2011

    Don't Say I Can't Do Something

    So, I've been called out again for not keeping up with the blog. Too much is going on! Things are finally starting to happen with the house right at the time that I have to go back to work. Between getting everything ready at school, keeping our current house clean (it's on the market), working on the house, and keeping Nate from killing the cat, I just haven't found the time to update the blog. But, excuses, excuses.

    I know you probably think this blog has turned into an epic adventure. Joe and I are the heroes in the story and our nemesis? Well, let's just call him, "He who shall not be named." Hint,'s on the floors...and it's black. Well, I'm here to tell you that several battles were fought. Blood and brain cells were lost. The war is over, and the heroes once again emerge victorious.

    Sooooo many people told us it couldn't be done. Even more people looked at us with crazy eyes when we told them what we were doing. It can be done...WE DID IT!

    Check back later for more pictures and a play-by-play of the action.

    Monday, July 25, 2011

    Primed and Ready to Go

    Are you ready to see the finished walls? I like pretending this is a big reveal so I can finally feel some sense of accomplishment. Up to this point we've only been demolishing everything. We've ripped up carpet, ripped up linoleum, pulled out staples, tore down wallpaper, and demolished a bathroom. I needed these walls to look pretty. I needed it bad.

    They aren't perfectly smooth. They have character though. I have to remind myself that this house is 73 years old. You don't move into a 73 year old house and expect everything to be even, square, smooth, working, not falling apart, livable, etc.

    So, I am a very big fan of these walls. Hubs and I put our brains together to pick the color. We make all wall color choices together. I blame this on the fact he was forced to grow up in a house with lots of purple floral wallpaper but that's a story for another day. We decided on Stone Mason Gray by Valspar but it ended up looking a lot more blue than gray. We still like it nonetheless.

    So here it is...


    Saturday, July 23, 2011

    Joint Compound = Shiny New Walls

    Remember these scary walls?

    They now look like this...

    How did this happen you ask? Easy! (Well, not quite.)

    First, we used my uber awesome steamer to steam off what was left of the wallpaper adhesive and washed down the walls. We let them dry for 48 hours. Next, I went around and scraped off all the loose plaster and paint and sanded it all down with a hand sander. (Not fun but necessary.) Then, hubby went around with joint compound and skimmed over all the holes and cracks.

    We let the joint compound dry for 24 hours then went back to check on our work. I was totally impressed by hubby's skimming skills. The walls were pretty smooth but still needed a little sanding. So we busted out our hand sanders and went to town smoothing down all the rough patches and uneven spots. (**very important to wear safety goggles and masks-safety first in the Lyon household)

    We used our shop vac (recent purchase) to "contain" the dust. <--I just made a joke. Anyone who has done this before knows there isn't any containing of the dust. It gets everywhere! I'm still sneezing even after wearing a mask the entire time.

    We did a little Internet research (aka Google) and found a primer with really good reviews. We used Zinsser Bullseye 123 Primer. It was awesome! I was so high after painting that room that I was seeing stars...and the walls looked great too. It covered all the stains and sealed the walls nicely. We ended up buying the 5 gallon bucket because we will be using it in every room in the house. So much to look forward to...

    Thursday, July 21, 2011

    Hello Walls

    The wallpaper is gone and if you read the last post you got a sneak peek of what the walls look like. Scary. Since I've lost my camera I can't show you pictures of the awesome 1940's wallpaper that was under three other layers of wallpaper. I can, however, use my mad writing skills to describe each layer in detail (from the top):
    1. "Civil War" paper - I'm not describing've seen it.
    2. Pink Spinning Wheel paper - exactly as it spinning wheels on it...very, um...colonial?
    3. Green/Blue/Gray patterned paper - actually was more like flowers
    4. Awesome vintage 1940's paper. OMG Awesome. Can't understand why they ever covered it up. We didn't get to see it all, just bits and pieces. It was just so fragile. It featured big apple trees, cherries, a cow, goats, sheep, a dove sitting on a wheelbarrow, chickens. I was so sad to see it go but it just flaked away. I wanted to save a little to frame but it was so badly aged with three layers on top of it and there was no way to get it off without wetting it...I promise we tried.
    5.Pink Paint
    6. Robin's Egg blue paint / falling plaster

    Thankfully, all these layers were just on one wall. Everything else was just the blue/falling plaster. My friend Dana got that wall. She worked for at least two hours steaming and scrubbing that wall. LOVE YA DANA! Here's her finished product.

    Funny story: Dana was washing the wall with a very wet sponge when she started to hear a crackle. See that outlet near the floor. Yep. She had been pouring water into it for 30 minutes. She almost solved all my problems for me.

    Tuesday, July 19, 2011

    Climbing the Walls

    To quote They May Be Giants:
    "I got tired of pacing the floor
    Sick of it all, I'm done with the floor
    Walked away ever since I got a new job climbing the walls . . . "

    Now that the floors are at a stopping place (for now) we've decided to tackle the next huge kitchen project...the walls. Here's what they used to look like:
    As much as I despised  loved the wallpaper, we decided that it just wasn't the look we were going for. Luckily for us each strip of wallpaper came down in an entire piece (no steamer necessary). I neatly folded them up, put them in a bag, and have left them out on the curb for the garbage man. Feel free to drop by and salvage it. I'm sure it would just look lovely in your kitchen/bathroom/bedroom. You could even frame it and put it above your mantel.

    Here's what the walls look like now...more to come.

    Sunday, July 17, 2011

    I'm in Love with a Stripper

    Well, actually it's a wallpaper steamer but stripper was more fun to type. Are you singing it with me?

    If it wasn't in your head, it is now. Ha ha ha!
    So, you've seen the tragedy that is our kitchen floor. To recap, it was two layers of linoleum and two layers (because one just wasn't enough) of tar paper over oak floors. After hubby scraped up the linoleum he handed me knee pads and said, "You want wood floors? Have fun! Peace!" Since then it's been my responsibility to find a way to get rid of all the tarpaper.

    After about 20 hours of work (no, not all at one time) its finally done. What was my secret? A wallpaper steamer. I went to the big box store and bought myself a nice multipurpose steamer with a wallpaper removal attachment. Below is the particular one I chose.
    It's a Wagner 905 Power Steamer. It guarantees to remove wallpaper "the first time every time." I decided it would be my weapon in the epic battle against tarpaper.

    Using the attachment intended for wallpaper, my gardening cushion (achy knees = no bueno), and a putty knife I attacked that tarpaper. The steamer holds about one hour's worth of water/steam and I filled it up roughly 20 times.

    I'm not ready to show pictures. The floor still looks awful. I got all the tarpaper off but there's still lots of adhesive. Originally I was steaming until everything came off, tarpaper and adhesive. But after I broke into tears the 50th time, my dad decided to call a floor guy he knows. The floor guy promised we could sand the adhesive off but removing the actual tarpaper was necessary. Fingers crossed he knows what he's talking about.

    Self-affirming mantra: "They'll be pretty when they're done." --This is actually what I say about everything house related.

    Monday, June 13, 2011

    Ding! Dong! The Carpet is Gone!

    Can you believe I'm posting twice in one week?!? One week into summer break and I've just got a small case of cabin fever.

    So, onto today's post. THE CARPET IS GONE! All the nasty, dingy, staple-filled, wall-to-wall carpet (that Grandmother was so proud of) has been ripped out of the house. Underneath are beautiful oak floors full of staples and just waiting for someone to love them. Everytime we mention to Grandmother how beautiful the wood floors are she just stares at us and says, "I don't understand why you would want those old wood floors. They aren't even very good quality. I just loved my wall-to-wall carpeting." She views the wood floors as "working class floors." I have to remember that 50 years ago almost everyone had wood floors and wall-to-wall carpet was the ideal.

    But carpet just kind of grosses me out. Maybe its because I have a toddler, two dogs, and a cat but I just can't help thinking of all the little microrganisms breeding under the surface of carpeting. They just never seem clean to me. I can vacuum every day and carpet scrub once a month and I still feel like it's just dirty.

    Anyway, we ripped carpet out of the living room, dining room, two bedrooms, and the hallway. I feel so much better about the entire space. It was the end of the day and we just wanted to get it over with so we just started ripping and rolling. You've heard me complain about the staples in the living room, dining room and one of the bedrooms. Well they continued through the hallway. When we got into the back bedroom, however, the carpet changed from beige to blue. And guess really...guess...oh all right I'll tell you, better yet, I'll show you.

    Instead of that nasty composite foam stuff, there was this. Equally nasty but not stapled down to the floor (insert squeal of excitement). I'm guessing it was once foamy and cushiony but now it is brittle and flat. It was just laying on the floor like that. We were able to just pick it up and neatly roll it inside the carpet.

    And here's what we were left with...