Matt’s been complaining that the fireplace room is cold. It’s still sort of our “formal storage room” at the moment so I’m not in there that much, but yeah it’s colder than the rest of the house. This is partly because of the sliding glass doors, partly because of the fireplace, partly because that part of the house sits on a slab….
…. and partly because our HVAC system is apparently seriously jacked up.
We already knew it was a little weird. They must have added the rooms above the garage after the original construction and that addition has a separate furnace that lives in our garage. The fireplace room appears to be some sort of remodel as well because apparently the duct work to some of the registers is randomly disconnected (and basically inaccessible) and there’s no air return in that room.
We had an HVAC guy come out to look at additional heating options for that room–whether it be baseboard heat or routing the second furnace to this room somehow. While investigating the current setup he also discovered that a safety feature on our main furnace has been bypassed. Ultimately he suggested a mini-split system so we had another person come out to do a quote for that.
Our current plan is to see how things go. The temperature in that room isn’t bad enough that it’s a serious problem, it’s just noticeably colder than the other rooms….but it’s also the room we use the least. I am planing on moving my home office space into the corner there which could change how I feel about things. At least I don’t work from home full time so we may even try a space heater if a heat boost is necessary before looking into a mini split.
Moral of this story: don’t just randomly disconnect your duct work because it’s in the way of your remodel.
A big part of deciding to move was the need for better home office space. Our new house has a finished basement, but Matt is apparently needy and wanted a window and actual natural light if he’s going to be working from home all day. Can you imagine?
In the House Tour I shared before I showed some awkward spaces upstairs that we planned on reworking and that was the first big project we decided to tackle. It’s a little hard to visualize from photos (especially since the hall closet was difficult to photograph, so here’s how the spaces were laid out when we moved in:
We discussed a few different options that included changing around the closet in the bedroom and adding a closet to the new room. These ideas led to complications involving vents and ceiling lights that we didn’t really want to deal with. Ultimately we followed Occam’s Razor theory and went with simplest solution:
To contain the mess a little bit, we started by building the new wall in the existing bedroom. We had to remove a strip of carpet and a strip of ceiling in order to add 2×4’s along the top and bottom. Because this is a pretty small project in the world of drywalling, we didn’t bother renting a drywall lift. Matt still decided to tackle a bunch of this while I was working in the office so he temporarily attached a brace to support the top piece of drywall while he screwed it into place.
Once the drywall was up, we demoed the wall between the closet and alcove.
After that was just patching, patching, and more patching. Walls needed new drywall, the ceiling needed new drywall + popcorn texture, the carpet needed to be filled in*… this was possibly the longest part of the whole process.
Most of the house is painted Sherwin Williams: Repose Gray and they had some left in the basement so we used that for now. Matt’s more or less in charge of this room and the bigger goal was having a functional space vs. and impeccably styled space. Heck, right now he still pretty much only has his desk in there (which fits perfectly in the alcove).
It may not be the most stunning visual makeover, but spatially it has been an awesome improvement to the house!
* My goal is to replace all the carpet sometime this year so we just patched in some leftover carpet from the basement. If a full carpet replacement wasn’t in our plans for the near future we would have come up with a better flooring solution.
Do you know how hard it is to juggle two kids, a full time job, and house projects? We’re still getting things done around here, just… slowly.
One of the projects we were DIYing for the kitchen was a built-in bench for the mudroom. Minnesota went into lockdown just as I was starting it, but thankfully we had already purchased most of the supplies.
The bench plan is pretty simple. We already had existing shoe racks that we decided to reuse, especially since they fit the space almost perfectly. To encase the shoe racks I just had to add a top, support legs, and some finishing details..
The top was built out of 2 1×8’s joined with pocket holes, giving us a depth of about 15″. I used 2x4s for the support legs and connected them to the top with pocket holes as well. Why pocket holes? They allow for the strength of screws without any fasteners being seen. I officially love my Kreg jig!
Our shoe racks fit perfectly between the legs and once some trim is added it will look like a perfect built in while still utilizing some existing pieces.
The top, however, is deeper than the shoe racks since people’s butts are usually bigger than their feet. I don’t want the shoe racks to get pushed back so I needed a spacer between them and the wall. Enter the 2×4….which I don’t have and which probably isn’t considered an essential item at this point in time.
I did have a small scrap of 2×4 though, just not enough for my ideal solution but needs must when the devil drives… so I sliced it into thin bits and glued it to the back the shoe racks.
Elegant? No, but it should do the job at least and allow me to get on with this project.
With the structure in place and everything lined up it still needed some finishing work. We cut and painted some scrap MDF to hide the 2×4 legs on the inside then ripped down a 1×4 to hide the supports on the outside. These pieces just got brad nailed into place.
While I was working on the bench I was waiting for my wallpaper to arrive. Oh yeah, that’s right, MORE wallpaper. People still think I’m completely nuts, but that’s ok!* Matt even helped me hang it on his birthday while the kids were sleeping since it goes much more easily with two people.
I think it look fabulous! We don’t have much wall space for art in the kitchen so it also adds a much needed pop of interest. Once I’m free to go to the hardware store again I still have a few more details to add. I want to paint the inside of the back door a brighter blue and add a little more trim to bench to camouflage the fact that the walls are not at all square. This room was even more modern addition and it’s STILL not remotely square. Or level.
All hell started breaking loose in Minnesota with COVID-19 last week but thankfully our contractors kept on trucking! None of them seemed terribly phased, but then we also try to stay out of their way and were already pretty much social distancing for the past two months (because new baby + winter).
One of the electricians came back on Monday to finally finish up the kitchen electrical. We have outlets! We have a light fixture!
The light fixture was interesting since it apparently had multiple wiring options but didn’t come with instructions. One of the down-rods also didn’t seem threaded correctly and we discovered a little too late that the fixture was designed for the electrical box to be oriented a very specific way. Thankfully the electrician was able to come up with solutions for both these issues and still get the fixture up!
Unfortunately he also discovered that a hole had never been cut in the back of the sink base cabinet for the outlet for the dishwasher and when he tried to cut a hole it didn’t go so well.
He was also short one breaker for the electrical box and Menards was out* so only half our kitchen had power by the end of the day.
On Tuesday the plumber came back to hook up our dishwasher and stove. Do you have any idea how happy I am to have a dishwasher again?! The stove, however, was still part of the half of the kitchen that didn’t have power so we had our eleventy-billionth instant pot meal.
Wednesday seem to be the big day around here. The electrician came back and got ALL the outlets working! They moved our fridge out of our dining room! They patched the hole under the sink! And do you know what that means?
At least with the big stuff anyway… Matt and I still have a bunch of small(ish) stuff left to do:
Hold onto your hats folks, last week was quite a ride even without the COVID-19 uproar.
Do you want to know how to give a perfectionist an aneurysm? Use non-paintable caulk on painted trim pieces.
Not only was this a Shit My Husband Broke situation, it was also a Stupid Shit My Contractors Did situation. I can forgive Matt* because he’s not a professional, but it was a majorly rookie mistake for the contractors so I was pretty miffed. There’s something incredibly disheartening about going to paint your trim** and watching the paint just bead up over every spot that was caulked.
I had Matt be the one to contact our project manager because I was pretty pissed/ready to cry and figured he would be much more polite about it. I think I was even more offended by the whole situation because I thought I had finally freed myself of all the old un-paintable caulk that had been in the mudroom from the beginning.
I pried off all the bad caulk that Matt had put around the window (which thankfully came off very easily) and on Tuesday our Project Manager and another worker spent several hours scraping off and redoing all the caulk that they had done. I did not envy their job since the offending caulk was not just in long beads along the edges but had also been used to fill all the nail holes left from putting the trim up.
The electricians also came back on Tuesday afternoon to figure out what the heck was going on with our living room light. Turns out something had happened to the (very old) neutral wire during the breaker box work so they were going to have to run a new one. By the time they left the living room light had been removed and the hallway light was mostly detached, but there was at least a plan.
Finally we reached Wednesday. WEDNESDAY! Countertop day. It seriously felt like Christmas. The countertop guys got here bright and early…. and then things started going downhill.
The contractors had had to cut out a chunk of the casing between the kitchen and dining to be able to slide the slab under it, but it was still a little to low on one side. Ok, problem solved with a multi-tool…whose battery died almost instantly. Luckily they had a spare. Then there was concern about the stove opening not being wide enough to fit the stove back in. Cabinet got shifted a bit, problem solved again.
Then the installers seemed surprised that our existing faucet did in fact require three holes (plus optional sprayer). Wait, what? We said we planned on keeping that faucet from the beginning, it shouldn’t have been a surprise! Turns out based on where the seams were on the counter slabs they would only be able to drill 3 holes at most and we needed a minimum of 4 for the dishwasher air gap.
I have no idea why they didn’t realize this was going to be a problem ahead of time…like, oh, when they came and measured. Even if they couldn’t have changed the seam placement, we could have at least had advance warning to find a new faucet. Thankfully Menards had a single-hole faucet in stock that 1) I liked and 2) was affordable.
While the installers were explaining the faucet situation, the electricians were on day number three of trying to sort out the living room ceiling light and running into new and exciting problems on their end. They had planned to run a neutral wire over to ceiling box in the hallway, but there were joists in the way so they would need to cut a hole in the ceiling which would need to be covered by a plate (I’m assuming there was going to be some sort of junction there which it why it couldn’t just be patched). No bueno. Well, would we be ok with installing different light fixture to hide it, like an elongated LED? Nope nope nope. Ultimately they did some more extensive rewiring in the living room, but still had to cut a hole in the wall. At least it was a patch-able hole.
After those issues got sorted out things went a little more smoothly. We hadn’t expected the plumber back until Friday, but he was able to swing by to hook up the sink. They also got all the backsplash tile set.
After people left for the day things went downhill again when Matt discovered we no longer had power to our bedroom. What in the hell is wrong with our house? It was annoying, but not a big enough problem to call the electricians back outside of their normal work hours.
So on Thursday the electricians came back bright an early for round #4. Luckily the bedroom issue was just a tripped breaker and the reason we didn’t figure it out ourselves was because it was on a 20 amp breaker*** and we assumed all those were related to the kitchen and therefore intentionally flipped off because the wiring wasn’t finished yet.**** They also got the ceiling light in the living room working again!
Also on Thursday the backsplash tile got grouted then they came back on Friday to seal it.
I didn’t have a chance for many pictures since I try to stay out of the contractors way and most things were already covered up/fixed by the time people left for the day. But hey, it will make for a more dramatic reveal, right?
*Well, I could have forgiven Matt… but then he dressed poor Elsie in a horrendously clashing outfit and decided to test all out smoke alarms while I was sitting with a previously-calm infant. I wasn’t that mad at about the caulk but he seemed bound and determined to piss me off that day.
**It was taken down then re-installed so all of it needed a touchup
***Long story short, the wiring is jacked up so it made it very confusing when the electricians were installing the new box.
****Matt would like to make it abundantly clear that he had thought about trying to flip the 20 amp breakers, but was told not to do it by our project manager (which was the right call to make given the knowledge at the time).
This was another week mostly dedicated to mudding and sanding the patches that got put in last week. Once the drywall was finished we got our toilet back!
Matt and I did some speedy priming and painting before the plumber got here so we could easily reach behind the toilet. We still have to touch up the trim that was covered by the vinyl and cut in all the edges, but it already looks so much better!
While we’re fine with painting walls and trim ourselves, I was adamantly against painting the ceiling so we included that in the work for the contractors. Not only did the kitchen ceiling need to be painted because of the patching, but it also had some weird splatters that needed to be covered up as well. With how tall the ceilings are I have no idea how gunk got splattered up there, but the good news is that it’s covered up now!
This may be one of the most boring photos in the history of blog posts, but seriously, do not underestimate the power of a freshly-painted ceiling.
Some mysterious purple paint, which I believe is a water-proofer, got put up where the backsplash tile will be.
On Wednesday they replaced our breaker box…which meant we were without power for most of the day. We dealt with the lack of power by leaving the house to run errands and bringing Elsie to visit Matt’s co-workers. By the time we got back they were just finishing up restoring power, except for the ceiling light in our living room which was mysteriously not turning on. And yes, we did try the obvious fix of trying a different bulb just in case there had been a freak timing incident. The electricians had originally hoped to do the breaker box and tackle all the kitchen work, but because of the mystery light incident they’ll need to come back another day.
Since it was a quieter week for the contractors, Matt and I started prepping some of the work that we’re going to be doing ourselves. We’re going to be re-painting the mudroom (same color, it just needs a refresh), replacing the baseboards, and adding a built-in bench so we’ve been priming, caulking, and buying wood.
The cabinet guy was back on Monday to hang the last upper cabinet and do some finishing work. The crown molding, toe-kick, and glass panels also got added.
The crown molding really polishes things off nicely! If you look closely you can tell our ceiling is uneven, but that’s just par for the course in this house.
We got another break on Tuesday and Wednesday. The every-day work is slowing down just a bit because of the wait on the inspector. Pretty much all the “big” stuff can’t happen until the plumbing inspector gives the OK.
Which happened on Thursday! Huzzah! Now we can start putting everything back together!
The holes in the kitchen wall and ceiling got patched and mudded.
Since the bathroom was a little more complicated, just the framing went up on Thursday. It’s hard to tell from the angle of the picture, but there has to be a bump-out behind the toilet to fit the larger pipe.
We also had the door/drawer hardware installed on Thursday.
I love the shape of everything, but I’m tempted to take a little Rub-N-Buff to the cup pulls to lighten them just a bit.
Then the drywall got put up and mudded on Friday.
WE HAVE WALLS AGAIN!
Unfortunately we also found out that our countertops won’t be in until the 11th. Whomp whomp.
On Monday the fabricators came to measure for the countertops. The plumber also came back to keep troubleshooting. Unfortunately they exhausted all the less-invasive options they could think of and decided a hole really would need to be cut into the ceiling to find a place to tie the sink vent into to.
…which meant on Tuesday we had a hole cut into our ceiling.
Good news: that’s the extent of the damage to the kitchen ceiling. Bad news: they’ll need to cut into the upstairs bathroom wall instead. Good news: it’s an excuse to start removing the awful vinyl from the bathroom walls. Bad news: $$$
Turns out the pipe they were trying to connect to for venting is downright decaying near the top. It’s also full of vermiculite which is what has foiled any attempts to trace the path from the kitchen to the exterior. In order to replace the damaged pipe they need to cut open the wall behind the toilet in our upstairs bathroom… just as Matt’s sister is coming to visit us. Awesome timing.
On Tuesday they also sealed the mudroom tile and started re-attaching trim. Honestly, I’ll probably re-do the baseboards to match the dining room at some point (which is much closer to the house’s original trim) but it’s easy enough to DIY and given the extra unexpected expenses that have popped up during this, I don’t want to pay a premium for professionals to do it.
They also demoed the bathroom the bathroom wall.
On Thursday the plumbing FINALLY got sorted out. Matt’s sister arrived that morning and nothing says “Welcome Guest!” quite like being down to one (mini) bathroom and having your water turned off for a chunk of the day.
There’s also new PVC pipe in our basement and attic since they replaced pretty much everything that they could access. I suppose it could have been worse. My aunt and uncle used to have a 1850’s-ish farmhouse and a lot of the plumbing was put in just as plumbing fixtures were getting standardized. Whoever did the work chose to use the discount fixtures which meant that they weren’t compatible with today’s fixtures.
And on Friday we rested. And by “rested” I mean “waited for the contractors to schedule the inspector since the walls can’t be put back together until then.”
This week was mostly putzy finishing work on the walls–Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were devoted to mudding and sanding the drywall joints. It takes an annoyingly long time since you have to wait for each layer of mud to dry before moving on.
On Tuesday the mudroom tile got installed!
…and then on Wednesday it got strategically pried up. Turns out the mosaic squares aren’t perfectly square. That combined with our non-level, not-square floor meant some of the spacing would be wonky and really obvious once black grout was added. This meant the tile guy and our project manager spent a chunk of the day popping out certain tiles and then re-laying them to even out the spacing. While not a fun time, this was apparently the easiest option (and I greatly appreciate their attention to detail).
See all those whiter/hazier spots where the mastic has oozed up and is showing? Yeah…those are all the spots they had to fix tile by tile. (The weird dark line across the middle of the floor is just a shadow)
Wednesday also brought a little inspection drama. We’ve been going back and forth about how to get the sink properly vented and the last plumber who looked at it thought he had a solution that wouldn’t involve ripping out the walls and ceiling. Then he talked to the inspector about it and the inspector wasn’t on board. So then our project manager brought the inspector over to show him what we’re working with…which is a hot mess. Now they have to figure out a way to vent the sink that will make everyone happy.
On Thursday the mudroom tile got grouted! I am ridiculously excited about this fairly simple floor. So excited I apparently missed getting a picture in time for this post…whoops! We also continued the plumbing drama and hauled the plumber back in to brainstorm. He says he hasn’t been stumped yet… which is all fine and dandy, but there’s a big difference between “this can’t be done” and “this will cost several thousand more than you expected to get done.”
Despite the plumbing complications, the cabinets were (mostly) installed on Friday! They didn’t permanently secure some of the base cabinets or hang the cabinet above the sink since parts of that may need to be demoed (again).
Basically this week was one giant effing headache for a lot of people.
On Monday the old sub-floor in the mudroom got ripped and spray foam insulation was added underneath. A new sub-floor also got more-or-less installed (they still need an inspector to check on the insulation).
Tuesday saw the near-complete destruction of our kitchen.
They’re letting us keep the sink for the time being but everything else got torn down and the appliances are currently shoved on the other side of the kitchen.
See the random door behind the sink? That’s the other side of our “Winchester door” from the stairs. Basically in the original floor plan of the house there would have been a solid wall between the kitchen and dining room, and the kitchen would have been accessible from the first stair landing. At some point an opening was added in the wall, the stairs removed, and the door was dry-walled over to allow for more wall space in the kitchen.
They also added framing between the kitchen and mudroom for the wall extension.
The electricians came on Wednesday and we learned that our breaker box really needs to be replaced in order to accommodate proper wiring in the kitchen.* This will require a day where they’ll have to pretty much shut off power to the whole house. In winter. In Minnesota. We may decide to flee the house that day.
Unsurprisingly, the electrical work brought on still MORE destruction–they had to remove the rest of the drywall behind the the cabinets and, thanks to some really stupid electrical code, had to cut holes for additional outlets. Unfortunately this meant having to add an outlet in the plaster wall in the dining room and it’s next to impossible to cut into plaster cleanly.
We got a small break from the chaos on Thursday. The electricians had to wait for an inspector to sign off on their work so they just prepped for the patching that would be needed in the drywall/plaster.
Friday was a late start too since they were waiting on another inspector for the insulation. After that was approved the drywall/cementboard started going up!
Oh hey, we have actual walls again!
*Fun fact: the outlet for our microwave was on the same breaker as our boiler.