Thursday, July 21, 2011

Stairway to Heaven? Nope, Just the Upstairs

Apparently, we've been super productive this month.  Once more, my in-laws came up on Sunday and helped us to install the hallway drywall.  I am once more amazed at the progress.  They are drywall installing gurus or something.  Our upstairs hallway is actually starting to look like a hallway.  :)
Here are some pics of their work.

 Looking up from the stairwell

 Looking down the hall toward the Nursery

 Looking down the hall from the Nursery (Ignore the mess in the Bonus Room/Renter's Kitchen)

Looking down the hall toward the Guest Room

There is only a little bit left to drywall and then the mudding can begin in the hallway.  Yea!

Of course, after all the drywall was up, Jim noticed that the illuminated switches in the hallway didn't seem as bright as they should be.  Jim checked it out, and he discovered the the current was active even when the lights were in the off position.  Hmmm...not good.  He was afraid that maybe a drywall screw nicked a wire or something, but he couldn't find any live screws.  He did some more investigating.  Fortunately, it was a simple fix and he didn't have to take down any of the drywall.  It turns out that the 2 switches at the top of the stairs were faulty.  He has since removed them and will replace them.

We recently had our water tested for bacteria by Davis Water Treatment for peace of mind.  Ever since our septic failed, I've been worried that our well water was contaminated.  I've been using bottled water for cooking, drinking, brushing my teeth, and other activities since.  I didn't want to take any chances with me being pregnant and all.  It also didn't make sense to have the water tested until after our new septic system was installed.  Well, the test came back negative for bacteria.  Yea!  This means that we don't have to shell out even more money to have the well chlorinated.  

We've seen some new wildlife in our yard and house lately.  On Sunday, we saw a skunk come moseying up our neighbor's driveway.  It went into the bushes beside their house.  It was at this point that we saw their cellar door open by the bushes.  Oh no!  We called our neighbors to let them know that they might have an unwanted and quite stinky house guest.  While Jim was on the phone with them, the skunk appeared once more and kept on walking and exploring the yards.  I hope it doesn't decide to take up residence nearby.  PU!  Jim came across a mouse in our basement the other night.  We bought some mouse traps and baited them with peanut butter.  The next morning, we found the mouse in the trap.  We're not sure if there are more of them, so we baited the traps again.  So far, no more mice.  I've been enjoying watching the finches at my new finch feeder and have managed to get a picture with both types in it.  I took it from my craft room window.  Our camera doesn't have the greatest zoom, so I cropped the pic.

Gold and House Finch at My Feeder
Sorry, it is a bit blurry.

Well, we've researched appropriate style/vintage newel posts for our stairwell landing and have decided that the best fit would be a box newel.  Unfortunately for us, this also seems to be the most expensive kind of newel post.  :(  Vintage/salvaged ones are just as expensive as new ones.  They can be upwards of $300 or more per newel.  We just don't have the budget for that.  So, Jim and I are playing around with the idea of making our own.  I'll keep you posted on what we inevitably decide.

This is the style box newel we like the best:

Whether or not we'll be able to replicate something like this is another story.  LOL!  Our's might end up being a little simpler since we do have to make 2 1/2 of them.

If you are interested, I have recently added 2 new entries into the Spirit Watcher page on this blog.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Busy Bees!

Once again, my in-laws came out to help with the house renovations.  Thank goodness!  We could really use it!  LOL!
This past weekend, they worked on finishing leveling the floor in the hallway, insulating the hallway, and continuing to mud the nursery and guest rooms.  They all have done an amazing job, and it is really starting to come together.  The hallway looks awesome!  I'm excited to see the finished product.  We have really made quite a change in that hallway by knocking down 3 walls and adding in a corner closet and built-in.  It is going to look so good!!!  I can hardly wait!  We are still on the hunt for the newel posts, spindles, and handrail for the upstairs landing.  If anyone knows of a place they can recommend, please let us know!  We don't want to spend more than $100 per newel post (we need 2 1/2), yet we want ones that are at least 4 1/2" in width to make them feel more authentic for the age of our home.  

Picture Time!

Leveled Floor in Hallway

Insulation on Ceiling and Walls in Hallway
 (Looking Towards Nursery)

More Hallway Insulation
 (Looking Towards Guest Room)

Mudding so far in Nursery

Mudding so far in Guest Room

One of the nights when we were all eating dinner, we had an unexpected house guest.  Jim looked up to see a  big ol' fat ground hog staring in at us from our front door stoop.  We've never noticed a ground hog before, so it was a complete surprise.  He was just sitting there as if waiting for us to invite him in.  LOL!  He didn't seem afraid of us at all.  After a few moments, he calmly walked off to lounge under one of the bushes we have out front.  Maybe the septic guys destroyed his home when we had the new septic installed...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Now I Know We Are Crazy!!!

*If you want things to make sense, you might want to scroll down to the post titled "Hooray for New Septic Systems!" and read up the blog.  If not, you will end up reading backwards through time if you start with this post.*

Here is how our Independence Day holiday weekend broke down:
Jim and his dad designed and built the scaffolding for the stairwell while Jim's mom and I worked outside with the new planters that I wrote about earlier.  I was pretty impressed with their design.

Here is the scaffolding.
The individual beams across the top in the pic on the left can be removed for people to go up and down the stairs.  I referred to them as the "pregnancy barrier," since I can't get up the stairs unless the final beam furthest from the camera is also removed.  I could probably climb over it to get upstairs, but there is no way I am going to climb back over it to go downstairs.  I don't feel like taking the express way down. 

At some point, Jim's dad suggested removing the other 2 walls surrounding the stairwell.  This has been an idea I've brought up to Jim before, but he has always come up with reasons not to do it.  These other 2 walls are not original to the house.  They are walls previous owners put up when creating the rental space upstairs.  I believed that there originally used to be a guardrail surrounding the stairwell opening and not walls.  Jim's dad agreed with my theory.  Now that my FIL was on board with the idea of removing the walls, Jim decided to give the idea more thought.  This is another "now or never" project, so it does require a lot of thought.

*Pros to Removing the Walls*
~the space would really open up and be easier to move things around
~there would be more light in the hallway
~the hallway is currently super narrow already and would become even more cave-like after we finish leveling the ceiling and floors
~we would be bringing the home back to its more original state
~the area would be airier/breezier
~we most likely wouldn't regret taking the walls down in the long run, but might regret not taking them down when we had the chance

*Cons to Removing the Walls*
~Jim would have to redo some of his rewiring that he already has done
~we risk not finishing everything before the baby arrives
~children might decide to either try to squeeze through the landing spindles, attempt to climb the guardrail, or decide to toss/drop things down the stairs between the spindles.
~this would cost more $ than keeping the walls


Jim was still debating with himself whether or not to remove the walls still, so Jim and his dad worked on other projects upstairs including more electrical, framing in a small corner closet with triangular built-in, and framing a future linen closet that won't be fully created until the bonus room/upstairs kitchen is renovated.  Since I wasn't allowed up there still during demolition, I'm not sure of everything they did.  I know of one casualty, though.  Jim accidentally dropped a tool in-between the wall.  It dropped all the way down to the first level, so we won't be able to recover it until we remodel the family room...and who knows when that will be.  LOL!  Poor Jim.  At least it wasn't an essential and/or expensive tool. 

Monday (4th of July)

Decision day!  
Our final decision was to remove the walls!  Yea!  I am over-joyed!  :D  I am so glad Jim has finally seen that it would be so much better in the long run if the walls were gone.
*Happy Manda Dance!*
Jim's parents and youngest brother (Eddie) came out to celebrate the 4th of July as well as helping out with demolition.  They once more closed themselves upstairs via the scaffolding and got to work.  I remained downstairs and went along with my business of updating this blog.  While the guys were destroying things, my MIL was mudding the drywall in the guest room and nursery.
Here are some pictures of the hallway/stairwell.

This is what the hallway looked like when we first moved in.  It illustrates quite well how narrow it is.  The doorway to the right leads to the stairwell.  The doorway to the left is to the bonus room/renter's kitchen.

After the Drywall Removal
Looking down the stairwell

Looking across stairwell
 That is the nursery doorway straight ahead and the bonus room doorway to the far left covered in plastic.

View from the nursery doorway

After the Stud Removal

Looking up from the stairwell

Looking across the stairwell
 That is the balcony door that is open that used to lead to exterior stairs for the renters.

View from the nursery doorway

The door covered in plastic leads to the master bedroom

Looking down the stairwell
If you look to the immediate left of the stairwell on the floor, you can see where the old newel posts and spindles used to be before the walls were erected.  It's sad.  The original guardrail and newel posts were probably thrown out.  :'(  We're currently on the hunt for new newel posts and spindles that are in our budget and look Victorian-esque.  We will need a total of 2 1/2 newel posts (the half is for the newel post that will be against the wall) and about 30 or more spindles.  Current code wants spindles to be no more than 4 inches apart to prevent children from getting stuck between them or slipping through them.  I measured the distance between the original spindle marks, and they were 6 inches apart.  In the meantime, we will close off the hole in the floor with the scaffolding when we are working up there to prevent anyone from falling off the edge.
If anyone knows of newel posts and/or spindles for a decent price, please let us know.  We will end up needing about ~10ft of guardrail.  The guardrail needs to be a total of between 34 to 38 inches in height to be to code.

Here is a picture of our corner closet and built-in so far

The closet won't be very big, but it will be able to hold a vacuum cleaner and other cleaning supplies.  The triangular built-in will consist of a cupboard on the bottom, a fake drawer in the middle, and open shelving on the top.  The shelving will hopefully be too high up for a toddler to try to climb it.  It would be nice if the cupboard doors had glass, but that probably wouldn't be a good idea with small children.  *Sigh, sacrificing for them already.*  LOL!

And, that is where we stand in our upstairs project.

Let There Be Light. And There Was Light. And The Light Was Good.

I think we must have gone crazy, but we can blame my FIL for that. ;)  When he was over one day to help Jim level the hall ceiling, he asked Jim if we ever thought about knocking down the wall at the top of the stairs.  I don't know why, but Jim and I had never thought of doing that.  It is a small wall that is in no way a support wall.  It was just the other side of a closet. When previous owners rented out the upstairs, they built walls surrounding the top of the stairs and made a doorway to the right of the stairs to basically create a divide between the renters and themselves.  The renters would have no need to come downstairs because they had their own "apartment" upstairs that included a kitchen, bathroom, 2 other rooms, and their own private balcony and staircase to the outside.  This is sadly the fate of many largeVictorian homes.  We are in the slow process of reverting the home back to its more original state of being a single family home.  The outside stairs to the second story has long been gone before we even bought the house, but the upstairs is still sectioned off from the downstairs and the upstairs kitchen is still very much a kitchen.  Anyways, we discussed it and have decided to knock down the wall.  It is basically a now or never thing.  So, we aren't done with demolition like Jim had stated in the previous post.  LOL!  The wall itself isn't the problem.  It is the fact that if we take the wall down, we would also need to remove the upstairs stairwell ceiling and wall to the left of the stairs in order to have the total ceiling level upstairs.  This would increase the original projects scope and would delay our project completion date.  Any delay is a big thing since we have a definite deadline now with the impending arrival of the baby.

Before Shots of the Walls

The 2 green walls in this picture will be removed as well as the ceiling.
 In case you were wondering, the green wallpaper also has a gold glitter embedded in it.  Jim says this is the worst wallpaper in the house.  I disagree.  I feel that title goes to the pilgrim wallpaper in the family room with images of muskets, barns, beehives, and so much more on it. : p

This doorway  to the right will also be removed.

This is the wall from the other side.  Jim had removed a corner closet as part of the original plan already.

We were planning on building another closet in its place, only better.

After Shots of the Small Wall and Doorway Removed

Bye-Bye Wall!
 The light from the window really lights up the stairwell now.  I keep thinking I left the downstairs stairwell light on.  LOL!  That window will definitely need some type of shade or light filter.

Removing that one little wall and doorway has really opened up the space!

Because our master is right there, we have temporarily (once again!) made a make-shift bedroom downstairs.
We were smart this time and brought our mattress downstairs to sleep on.  There was no way my pregnant self was going to sleep on an air mattress for an extended amount of time.  ;)

You can see where the wall and doorway used to be in this pic.
It will be much easier bringing stuff up the stairs and around the corner now.

Since knocking down the stairwell ceiling and other green wall will require scaffolding, that demolition needed to wait for another weekend.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Outdoor Projects Besides Septic

On Memorial Day weekend, my dad came up and helped us with some of the yard work that included removing the hedge stumps along the west side of the house, pruning lilac bushes, and placing weed barrier where the stumps used to be.
The West Side

On Independence Day weekend, Jim's parents came up and helped us with a couple outdoor projects as well.  While Jim and his Dad worked on the upstairs hallway, Jim's mom and I worked outside in the flower bed.  We first spread mulch on the weed barrier. We then ended up going to a local nursery, Lowe's, Home Depot, then back to the local nursery before we had everything we wanted.  The cement urns were way too heavy for me to handle, so the guys helped us out with that.  Here are the end results of our afternoon hard labor.
My New Planters
 These look so much better than the over-grown hedges that were there when we first moved in.

 The planters really bring out the side door entry.  Too bad we don't really use it yet.  We'll see if I end up having to put a sign on the door directing people to the back door.  :)

A close-up of one of the planters.
The plants inside are Coleus, Confetti Purple Cleopatra Petunias, and Potato Plants

We also created a little oasis in the small bed by the back door.
Unfortunately, I've already had to move the 2 planters since it was too much sun for the Coleus to handle.  I have since placed them on the front door stoop where they will get more shade.

My father-in-law replaced our old back door entry light with this more appropriate one.
I didn't like the old one since the bulb stuck out the bottom.  This one is a little small for the space, but it will due for now.  We originally had bought it to use as a second light outside on the upstairs balcony, but have since changed our minds.

This chipmunk looks guilty already of destroying my flowers.

The Straight and Level

Our second story renovation project(s) have been progressing rather slowly lately. After we installed the drywall in the two bedrooms in May, the next phase of the renovation project began. As you know, I've spent a few weekends cleaning up blown-in insulation and knocking down the old plaster and lathe in the hallway. We have finally progressed past the point of demolation, and we can begin building-up again.

I had been prepared two weekends ago to remove the plywood subfloor and tile in the hall. Once I lifted one of the plywood sheets though I found the reason the subfloor was there at all. Luckily, I did not find a pack of rabid opposum, or a used mail-order taxidermist assistant's kit, or a space/time rift under the subfloor. But the original floor boards are warped to such a degree, that the triangular 2x4 ribs which brace and level the plywood subfloor measure up to 4 inches on the lowest side. I quickly put the subfloor back, then slowly took a cautious second look.

If I were to fix the slanted original floor, I would do what has already been done. Therefore,...
Amanda is taking over this post, since Jim has been too preoccupied with actual renovation to finish his draft. :)
Jim has decided to leave the already leveled part of the floor alone, and we will just build the rest of the floor up to that point.  This means that Jim does not have to remove any of the tile.

The Tile

Jim has since leveled the ceiling but not the floor (will be explained in future posts).

Leveled Ceiling
Don't let the old beams fool you, the new wood is what is level.

While Jim was removing the plaster and lath from underneath the one and only hallway window, he came across an interesting find...

An Old Beehive With Layers of Honeycomb
Alas, no honey.  This was a very old hive from the looks of it.

With the help of Jim's parents, we were also able to finally install the fold-up attic stairs that we purchased months ago on sale.

The Frame

The Stairs Closed

The Stairs Open
It is so much easier to get up into the attic now.  We are both really glad that we decided to do this.  The previous attic access was very small and inconvenient.  No fears, we have purchased fire-rated drywall for the stair's "lid" as per code.

We would also like to share with you the pics of our doors for the nursery and guest rooms.
The pre-hung doors on the left will be the style for the bedroom doors.  I noticed that the original doors in the house (of which there seem to be only 2- not counting the french doors) are both 4 panel doors.  These were the closest match we could find in our budget without actually buying vintage doors.  The doors on the right will be used for the sliding doors in the closets.  These are also styled after vintage doors, and Jim really liked the look of them.  We bought them a few months back when Lowe's was having a sale on custom doors.

Hooray for New Septic Systems!

The long awaited day has finally arrived, the ground breaking of our new septic system.  :)  They came on Friday, July 1st, and were able to accomplish everything in 1 day!  They arrived at 9am and left by 3pm.  I was amazed.  We half expected them to run into complications and would need to up the price from the quote, but everything seemed to go quite smoothly.  Yea!  We took plenty of pictures for everyone to see.
Our Yard Before July 1st

The Back Yard

The Side Yard

The Front Yard

Our Yard During the Installation

Groundbreaking and rerouting the septic


The new system arrives!

Putting the new system into place

Make way!

Those are some big piles of dirt!

Don't fall in!

What was left of our septic tank (left) and our leach well (right)

Well, now we know where the underground pipes for the downspouts, footers, and, water-softener are located for sure.

Phase 1 complete!  Phase 1=destroy our yard

Checking out our yard while we wait for Phase 2 to begin

Haha!  How many of you can  boast that you've posed with your septic system?  LOL!

Quick!  Throw some of the old junk/rubble (that the previous owners left behind the garage) into the old leach well pit before the septic guys come back!

Phase 2 starts!  Smooth out that yard!

The After-Shots

The Back Yard

The Side and Front Yard

Now we wait 3 months or so for them to come back and regrade the yard since the system will settle about a foot.  Wait...3 months...that is when the baby is due!  Oh boy!  We will probably be hiring professionals next spring to come and reseed our yard since it is such a big area.  Wonder how much that will cost...
Speaking of cost, you are probably wondering how much this lovely septic package has cost us.  Well, I can tell you since I just wrote out the check today.  
The grand total is $7,625.00.  
Not exactly what we wanted to spend our money on when expecting a baby and in the middle of a major home restoration/remodel, but we kind of had no choice.  A working septic system is crucial. 
Now we just have to pray that sewer won't come down our street for 5 years or more so we can get our money's worth out of this ordeal.  We would be totally screwed over if a sewer system did come through sooner because homeowners are forced to hook up to sewer. We had no choice; however, since our old septic system had completely and utterly failed.

I would like to take this opportunity to promote the 2 companies that we worked with during this whole fiasco of an experience.  Both companies were friendly, professional, and accommodating to our needs.

All Town and Country Septic Tank Service: This is the company that pumped our old system on a weekly basis since the start of our septic woes.  The owner even started to give us a discount because of how often we needed pumping.

Summit Excavating:  This is the company that installed our new Hydro-Action aeration septic system.  They were great to work with, are members of the BBB, and have an A+ rating.

If you are interested in the type of system we installed, you can check it out on this website: