Monday, January 23, 2017

all done

The contractors actually completed everything in just four days! That was making the pass-thru, making a custom mantle, ripping off the wainscoting in the kitchen and installing new drywall, priming and painting the entire kitchen, tearing out the old range hood and two small cabinets above the stove and installing an over-the-stove microwave, painting the living room wall of the pass-thru, and replacing a couple of ceramic tiles and cracked grout in the master bathroom. 

I spent 12 hours straight on Friday putting the house back together. I made at least 40 trips down to the basement to get the furniture (nothing too heavy - I left the kitchen table and living room console table for Brian and Tim) and every item that was in the living room and kitchen. Because of the drywall dust, I also mopped the kitchen and living room floors three times, plus a fourth time on my hands and knees.  Let me tell you...I hurt from head to toe by the time I went to bed.

I wasn't able to get any decent photos until Saturday morning due to the continual dreary weather, but the sun came out for a few minutes and I ran to get my camera.

Ta-da ~ the completed living room pass-thru! It is amazing how much bigger the house looks and how much light now comes into both the living room and kitchen.

Other side of the pass-thru, as seen from the kitchen.

Don't the walls look totally different without the wainscoting? And no more blue! I know it looks bare and plain, but I'm actually enjoying the "clean" look for now. I want to change things up a bit with wall decor and want to make absolutely sure of what I want before I start putting nail holes in the walls.

In case you forgot what that kitchen wall (above) looked like before:

The completed fireplace. (Decorating not complete.)

The only problem we ran into was discovering some spots in the kitchen that needed paint touch-up and a portion of baseboard shoe molding that needed more nails, as it was arching a bit. We think they got a little sloppy near the end on the last day because they were in a hurry to finish. They had a new client to go to the next day. We had to contact the owner of the business and he sent the main contractor back this morning to touch up the paint and fix the baseboard shoe.

Was all this work worth the anxiety and stress? I would've said no in the thick of it, but now that it's over, of course my answer is yes. I'm just glad it only lasted four days. ;-)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

progress ~ day three

 The contracting work is moving along quickly. All these photos were from yesterday - day three of work. 

The fireplace mantle and surround are up, primed and painted with one coat of paint, so far. It's a simple design...we could've had other molding pieces put on to make it more elaborate, but our living room is small and not at all "fancy", so we wanted to keep the design simple as to not overwhelm the room.

The pass-thru ledge is also installed, primed and first coat of painting done. The light between the living room and kitchen is already amazing, even on a cloudy day and with a plastic barrier in place. Someone had asked on Instagram why we didn't have the entire wall removed. This wall is a load bearing wall. To have it removed would require major engineering work. We're not willing to go through that - mentally or financially! We also have different shades of hardwood flooring in the living room and kitchen. The flooring in the kitchen is a dark hardwood and the living room is a blonde hardwood. So, same sort of situation: no desire to tear up hardwood flooring in the kitchen (that's the older stuff, though it still looks good) and replace it with the flooring that matches the living room to make it all seamless.

 In the kitchen, the ugly, faux wood molding and door frame were removed from the opening going into the basement and replaced with white molding. Bottom halves of the walls that had the wainscoting got new drywall and everything primed to get ready for painting.

Believe it or not, all that's left for the contractors to do now is to paint the kitchen, the living room wall where the pass-thru was cut, and finishing up all the tiny details. They said they should be done today! Only four days of work - not bad. Though it has seemed like two weeks. ;-) I don't know how people go through major renovations that last weeks or months while living in the house. It's been stressful. But, I know, will be totally worth it.

I'll be back soon to show you the completed work!

Monday, January 16, 2017

here we go

I am so glad the contractors aren't working at my house today. It's 38 degrees and pouring rain, most of which is turning to ice on the pavement. It's so dreary and miserable out there, I'm content to stay at home in the peace and quiet and not have to go out.

The contractors were actually able to start a little work last Friday. They tore off the wainscoting and got some of the drywall torn off. If I had've known they were going to do this, I would've had Brian and Tim take the kitchen table, chairs and rug to the basement, but the contractors were able to just move everything closer to the kitchen counters and it didn't get in their way at all.

They also installed the over-the-range microwave. In order to fit the microwave, they had to tear out the two small cabinets that were previously there. (See my previous blog post for the "before" photo.) The problem is, that left a big gap between the top of the microwave and the soffit. So, they built us a little wooden shelf above the micro. I know it looks a bit strange right now, but once they paint the entire kitchen and then I put some decorative items in that bare space, I think it'll make a pretty nook.

Now for the reality part:

Renovation is stressful. 
The contractors are on your doorstep at 7 am.
That means you have to be showered and dressed and your entire morning routine done by then.
Coffee made and a quick something grabbed for breakfast ~ because you certainly don't have access to the kitchen once they start working.
Cats fed and locked up in the basement.
Car moved out of the garage and onto the street.

The one teeny perk to getting up early? You get to see the sunrise.

There's nowhere to go at 7 am to escape the noise and dust except a coffee shop. Nothing else is open. I suppose you could go wandering around a 24-hour Walmart or Walgreens if you were bored enough. I'll pass on that.

So, starting tomorrow morning, I'll hole myself up in my bedroom or in the basement with my laptop until I feel I can't stand the noise any longer. I have a feeling that coffee shops and the library are going to be my temporary home these next couple of weeks. I also have a few visits with friends planned.

I've also learned that renovation requires a lot of planning. Since I won't be able to cook during the day, I made several meals yesterday and put them in the refrigerator. Outfit for the day needs to be chosen and set out ahead of time - because you're certainly not going to have time in the morning to make any decisions. It's grab and go. Little things that might be kept in the kitchen - vitamins, phone charging cords - need to be kept in your purse or in a room that's not being worked on. Anything you need to take with you when you leave for the day - purse, keys, laptop, reading material, water bottle, food - has to be ready the night before.

We just found out that when the contractors are working with the drywall, they will be taping the kitchen cabinets shut on both sides. (That's another thing: the drywall dust is supposed to be horribly invasive.) So, we won't be able to open cabinets to get plates, silverware, or pots and pans. I'll be taking a few of these items out of the cabinets today and keeping them downstairs - where everything else from the kitchen and living room is piled. Even the normal stuff I kept on the kitchen counters for quick access - coffee pot, cooking utensils, bananas, pepper grinder - all had to be taken downstairs. Our dinners will be eaten down there, too. Dinner on the couch (if we can find it) in the family room...our new normal.

It's also very unnerving to have strangers in your house. Yes, you kind of get to know these contractors, but they're still strangers. And they're tearing your house apart and basically taking over.

I thought a lot of this was just me and my over-anxious mind until I came across this article on Houzz: 

Whaddya know - it's universal!

One more worry? My fur babies. I hate that they have to be kept in the basement all day. Sure, they have their little beds and nesting spots down there, as well as a cat box and a bowl of water, but they're used to having access to the entire house, including sunbeams on comfy beds. And I hate that they're subjected to such loud noise, especially since we usually have such a peaceful house. I wish I could explain it to them and that they understood. Last Friday when I went into the basement to feed them and talk to them and pet them, Monkey was cowering underneath a chair and didn't want to come out. :-(

Yes, I know that it will all be worth it in the end. But let's face it ~ we live in the here and now ~ so I'm writing about the here and now. Perhaps it will help someone else out there when they decide to go through some remodeling or renovations.

See you soon with more updates and reality checks!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

getting ready

Happy New Year (it's still not too late to still say that, is it?) from cold, dreary Illinois. I apologize in advance for the dark photos, but this is what the natural light in the house is like right now. 

Monkey and Clementine love to hang out in their cat tree in the living room, watching the birds and squirrels (if you look closely, you can see the gray squirrel on top of the fence) out the window. But, in just five days, their cat tree will be relinquished to the basement, as workers will be here next Tuesday to start renovations.

Totally clearing out rooms takes more time than you think - even if you think a room doesn't have that much stuff. You learn you really have more "stuff" than you think you do! When you have to remove every knick knack, plants, artwork, mirrors, books, and every piece of furniture...well, let's just say I'm glad I not only have a helper, but that we have a basement where we can move all this stuff to in the meantime.

You can see that we still have to remove the curtains and blinds, cat tree, chair, rug and coffee table. The couch and buffet will stay in the living room and the workers will cover and seal these two pieces.

One of the things we're having done is having a mantle built and installed. After almost 27 years of waiting, I'm excited about finally having a completed fireplace.

This photo shows how the fireplace wall is on an angle. I'm considering getting rid of this buffet ~ it takes up so much room in our small living room. It used to belong to my parents and my mom doesn't want it back. The thing is, a lot of my serving and glass baking dishes are in this buffet, along with wine glasses. The drawers on top hold extra dish towels and cloth napkins, as well as paperwork and mailing supplies. I could relocate the dish towels and paperwork, and perhaps get rid of some of the wine glasses, but I have no idea where I'd put all the serving dishes and baking dishes. Most of the wine glasses are Waterford crystal from our wedding registry back in 1984 and we never use them - I think I could sell them at my favorite antique consignment shop. I'm entertaining the idea of clearing out a lower cabinet in the kitchen where we store all the extra food containers (mostly glass). Then, perhaps I'd have room for the baking dishes. 

Another idea is to keep the buffet and have my mom chalk paint it (she's in the business of doing this now) so the living room doesn't look so dark. I haven't passed this idea past Mom yet, so Mom - if you're reading this - surprise! ;-)

The biggest project - and most dramatic, I think - will be having an 8' pass-thru cut out in the living room wall. (The other side is the kitchen.) This is the main supporting wall, so it can't be totally removed. Well, technically it could if we chose to have a support beam put in the ceiling, but that's a ton of work and expense. And this little house and neighborhood we live in isn't worth that kind of major renovation as far as resale value.

Here's the kitchen side of the wall. Can't you just picture the pass-thru and how much light will flow between these two rooms?

The workers will also be tearing the wainscoting off the walls and then painting the entire kitchen a neutral cream color. Good riddance to robin's egg blue! The kitchen has been painted this color the entire 27 years we've lived here. Needless to say, I'm way past this color.

The color I chose to have the kitchen painted is Behr Eggshell Cream. It'll flow nicely with the living room and hallway, and having neutral walls in the kitchen also means I can decorate with whatever colors I wish. With having blue walls, I was limited in color choices with table linens, dishes, chair pads, and decor.

We'll also have that lovely 1980's range hood and the two small cabinets above it removed, and a microwave installed above the range. The microwave on the counter will be donated. We're thinking of purchasing a toaster oven and putting it in the microwave's place.

Lastly, the brown faux wood trim around the kitchen doorway that leads to the basement will be removed and white molding installed. Sorry for the horrendous photo. I had to turn on the ceiling fan lights and it cast shadows all over the wall.

There's still a lot more that needs to be done in the kitchen - recessed lighting, new kitchen window, new counter tops, backsplash, maybe some upper cabinets removed and open shelving put in its place, and cabinets refaced - but all that will have to wait until more money is saved up. Not to mention, there's a lot of other (more important) work to be done in the house. Ah, the joys of home ownership!