Sunday, March 23, 2014

What "Ph.D" Means - At Least This Week!

Sorry about the delay in any updates about the renovation project. Last week was the week midterm grades were due at the university, meaning I was so tied up with grading (and search committee duties) there wasn't a spare minute to blog. But this is SPRING BREAK!!!!! So maybe I can put together several posts this week about the fascinating fun that is renovating an old house.

We are at the halfway point (more or less) in tearing out the inside walls of the "town house," as I call it. My husband is very methodical about the process - we started in the southwest corner of the house and have moved from that room to the next room just north of it, then to the one just north of that one. Well, that's what he's done. I have much more of a hop-around style. (In my defense, I hop around from room to room because I don't want to be in the room where something might fall on my head as he pulls it down.) The daughter and I have taken down drywall in various sections in the room that will become the living room, as well as tearing out part of two closets (since that room was a bedroom). Here are a couple of shots of that room:

Ah, the sledgehammer! My daughter's favorite tool!
She has a pretty mean swing for a 5' 2" girl.....

That room has 10-foot ceilings, so the daughter and I have only tackled the part we can reach. We'll leave the heavy-duty, overhead stuff for my husband. He's the one who's really done the bulk of the work, including tearing out the built-in cabinets in the old kitchen (which will become a bedroom). He said that job was pretty hard, since everything was made of solid boards and nailed to the wall. He finished tearing them all out about a week ago, just making a huge pile in the floor since the dumpster was full. We then had to leave it all there for several days, since neither of us could get away to work on the project. But a new dumpster was delivered and all the trash was cleared out in about a half-hour, giving us a clean slate for tearing out the old vinyl flooring.

We are taking the walls down to studs, to make it easier to do new wiring (a necessity!). I always like the "stud" stage of a house, when it's possible to see how the rooms are laid out but there is a sense of freedom from being able to see and walk through the walls.

My husband estimates we should be able to finish the demolition with a couple of good, long days this week. He would even like to have the new walls he plans to add (for closets in the new bedrooms and for an extension to the hallway leading from the laundry room) by the end of the week. But....there may be a mighty big kink in his plan.

We are also involved in a renovation project in the house we live in. A couple of months ago, my husband had to go under the house for something, and he noticed some mold on the joists under our bathroom. I had been suspicious for a while that there was a leak around the edge of the tub, so we decided this would be an opportune time to take out the tub/shower and convert the bathroom to a walk-in shower. Today we started that project (since it's spring break and we don't have to take showers every day, ha ha!). (Actually, we can use the shower in the kids' bathroom.) I started scraping off the popcorn ceiling, we carefully removed the tile (which we may use in the "town house" - I couldn't stand putting perfectly good tile in a landfill), and my husband and son carried the fiberglass tub outside.

It was at that point we discovered the extent of the damage. It's not terrible, I suppose, but it's a good thing we decided to redo the shower now, because there was significant water damage behind the tub. Apparently there were two leaks, one where the silicone sealant between the wall and the tub wasn't thick enough, and another where a gasket of some kind on the tub drain had simply rotted out from age (our house is about 17 years old). There are a couple of wall studs that are a bit spongy, and the plywood subfloor has a couple of soft spots. To fix it right (which I insist on) will mean cutting the wall of the closet on the other side of the shower, replacing the lower half of some studs, replacing at least one section of subfloor - in other words, a LOT more work than my husband had intended to do for this project. He's not happy. I can understand why; it probably will mean we won't get as much done at the town house as he wanted to this week. But as I keep reminding him, this is the house where we live; we want it to be in the best shape possible.

So that's where things stand as of 10:00 p.m. Sunday night. Let's hope by 10 p.m. next Sunday that at least the shower project is complete!

Oh, and the Ph.D. reference? I've been joking that for this week, that "Ph.D." after my name stands for "Professional House Demolisher."

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Renovation Realities

You might recognize that title as the name of a program on the DIY television network, a show in which people with varying levels of experience take on a remodel of their home. My husband loves that show. I have a suspicion it's because he likes to feel superior to the poor, poor souls who are over their heads with their renovations.

Well, we're about to enter our own real-life version of "Renovation Realities." When our son announced at Thanksgiving break that he planned to transfer from the college he was attending to the one where I teach, my husband and I started weighing options for housing. Although my position at the college gives a significant tuition break, housing costs are not covered. And while we don't mind having the son back in the household for a semester, I think we all are agreed it's a good thing for a young adult to live on his/her own rather than staying in the homey old nest.

The end result of our deliberations is that we decided to shop for a small house in town where our children could live while going to college (since the daughter says she wants to attend the school where I teach, as well). Our reasoning was, if we're going to be taking out a loan to pay for housing, we might as well be putting that money into something that will give us tangible property at the end rather than simply paying rent on the dorm or an apartment. So we scouted the local real estate market and found this lovely little old house not too far from campus.

It was something of a bargain, since it was a foreclosure with some damage from an indoor dog (the carpet reeks, believe me!). We closed on the house in mid-February, and recently, we began the process of bringing the house up to our standards of "liveable." While it will be a departure from the normal content for this blog, I plan to do a series of updates on our progress over the next few months.

Although the weather has been seriously cold to work in a house with no heat, we've started. The first step was to get an idea of what was inside the walls. I took a hammer over one day after work and chipped in to a couple of walls enough to discover previous owners had put drywall over wall boards - without bothering to put in any insulation. It was at that point we knew the project was going to be, as my husband is fond of saying, a "total gut job." Since that time, we've been able to take most of the interior wall boards off one of the front rooms, so it looks like this:

We were pleased to discover the opening on the right was originally a door that had been boarded up; we were planning to put an opening between those two rooms anyway. One of the things we will have to do is reconfigure the floor plan of the house. As it stands right now, one of the two bedrooms was at the front of the house and actually had one of the two front doors opening in to it. That room is now going to become the living room, and the room with the other front door (pictured here) will become an eat-in kitchen.

My husband and I are excited about the project. I know it's going to be a lot of work, but we both like this kind of work (we've built two houses in our 25 years together, and we're still together, ha ha). We've never renovated an old house, though, so I know there will be challenges, just like the people on the TV show face. There will be discoveries, too; we've actually already had some that I will talk about in another post. One discovery, though, is worth mentioning here. Last Saturday, the husband and I spent the morning at the house tearing down drywall and boards. We noticed that someone had done work across the street to level out the ground, making it obvious that something is going to be built across the street. Some friends stopped by to look over our project, and since they live in town, they knew what our new neighbor will be - the new police station and a new park for town. We were quite pleased to hear that, especially since our kids will be living in what is now sure to be the safest house in town! : )