Dec 2013

A Closet Grows

It’s been a long and exhaustive search for closet space. We’ve fought some tough battles and lost practically all of them. But here’s a solution we think we’re going to be happy with.

One of the bedrooms upstairs had a small closet under the eaves, as you can see by the door on the wall in this pre-gut picture.
peter's room copy

Here’s a clearer shot of the space, post-gut.
peter's closet

And here it is now, framed for a pretty decent size closet that’ll have sliding doors and will be able to hold actual hangers. Score one for us in the Fight To Hang Our Clothes!
new closet peters room

Homework From The Cabinet Lady

Turns out the kitchen cabinets can’t be ordered until we get a fridge and give them the dimensions to ensure the cabinets will fit around it. So on a fridge hunt we go.

Due to the tight swing space for the door, we’ll need either Side by Side or French Doors.


The family and friends poll turned out these top choices:

Online Reviews and Consumer Reports research added these:
Liebherr & Sub Zero
Kitchen Aid

Counter-Depth Pros:
Looks nicer since it doesn’t stick out too far from the cabinets
Gives us more of a walkway through the room
No digging around for things in the back of the fridge because there’s no back of the fridge to dig around in

Standard Size Pros:
Costs less
Has significantly more capacity
Has a ‘back of the fridge’ to store things in

Not sure what features we’ll get in the end, but based on comments all over the web, I know what we aren’t getting: An Ice-maker. It seems to be the main reason fridges break down.

Kenmore counter-depth french door:
Screen Shot 2013-12-29 at 9.18.10 PM

Whirlpool counter-depth side-by-side:
Screen Shot 2013-12-29 at 4.22.03 PM

Safety First

On Christmas Day, while most people were wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, I heard two other important words: Fire Blocking.

As in: “Your house is Balloon Framed and this is the time to ensure fire safety measures are put into place.”

Special Thanks to Bro, Sis-In-Law and Nephew for touring the gutted house and giving such sage advice.


Way back in the day, houses were constructed by a post and beam method. This required a lot of labor, skill and money.

Then, along came a carpenter who decided to construct a house by using 2 x 4 inch wooden studs and running them straight up from the foundation to the top of the house. Suddenly, your average Joe could build a house. And many of them did. (In fact, Balloon Framed Houses would go on to play a major role in the settlement of the West, and the proliferation of the suburbs everywhere.)

This new type of house pissed off the Post & Beam Builders who said they were so light, they’d blow away with the wind like a balloon. Hence, the term Balloon Framed Houses.

Well, the houses didn’t blow away.

But what they did do was pose a safety risk in the case of a fire, since fire can spread more quickly in the unprotected spaces, of which there are many.

That’s where Fire Blocking comes in. To fire block a balloon framed house, blocks of wood are put in between the studs, like so:

LC and I spoke about the best way to go about Fire Blocking the home. It won’t be easy, since the studs aren’t your average size, but it will be done. And with LC on the case, I’m sure it will be done well.


A Picture Says What I Can't

All those hours and hours of pulling swipe finally paid off.

When LC and I were talking stand-up showers, it hit me. Why stand here and try to describe what we want, when I have an exact picture of it on my computer? Because in reality, an all glass shower can be interpreted tons of different ways.

And we wanted it to be interpreted just like this:
Screen Shot 2013-07-17 at 10.18.54 AM

I have a feeling I’ll be carrying my computer over to the house more often.

When One Door Shuts, Another Gets Repurposed

There’s a chance we may be replacing the old interior doors, which truly saddens me. A relative wisely suggested we repurpose one or two. This was a job for the web, which turned up some neat ideas. Don’t know if I could pull any of these off, but I’d sure love to try.

Coat Hangers:



Garden/Tool Shed:

Door Knob Hangers:

Key Plate Bracelet:

Key Plate Chandelier:

Bang Bang Bang Bang

Oh, the irony. To be staying at my Mom’s and woken up at the crack of dawn every morning by the men working at the gutted neighbor’s house - a.k.a. Sig Other’s and my house.

More Windows Are In And, Oops, A Mistake

The Good News: The windows in the sunroom are all in, and there should
be even more light than before.


After (a little more window, a little less wood)…
Photo on 12-21-13 at 11.29 AM #3

A full side: the middle window is now bigger than the other two...Photo on 12-21-13 at 11.29 AM #4

The Not-So-Good News: the wrong size double hung window was put
in the dining room, as you can see by the board beneath it. Will take
some time before it’s taken out and the right size window is put in.

And Now The Great News: there will be no excruciatingly long work stoppage over
these holidays! Yay!


Decisions At The Speed Of Light

Did a walk-through yesterday with LC, the electrician, and MVP Mom to decide what lights we wanted and where we wanted them. Did a rundown of the walk-through last night with Sig Other to decide whether the decisions I made were the right ones. Finalized everything with LC today.

Our Lighting Plan of Action:

24 high hats

1 pendant light

1 chandelier

5 surface mounted lights

4 closet lights

2 sconces

1 hanging light that came with the house

2 flashlights for when the lights go out in a storm and all the above becomes useless

Our Kitchen - A Preliminary Design

Things that can happen when you put in 4 1/2 hours at a Kitchen place:

1. You forget which style doors you chose.
2. You disagree with each over which cabinet name you chose only to find out you’re both wrong.
3. You get a call from someone who is worried cause you went to the cabinet place and you never came back.
4. You give each other silent looks that say HELP, I’M STUCK IN A CABINET STORE AND I CAN’T GET OUT.
5. You finally feel good about the cabinets only to find out you now have to choose the countertop and hardware.
6. Someone says Bathroom Vanities and you want crawl into a corner and take a nap.
7. You see a sample of the countertop you chose and realize you don’t like it.
8. You see a computerized rendition of your kitchen and you start to feel pretty darn good about your progress.

Here’s our preliminary plan:

View from the dining room (the door at the back is the outside door - no door between the kitchen and mudroom in this plan):
Screen Shot 2013-12-19 at 10.18.15 PM

View from the mudroom:
Screen Shot 2013-12-19 at 10.18.59 PM

View of the wall by the basement door. mudroom to the right, dining room to left:
Screen Shot 2013-12-19 at 11.03.06 PM

View of the wall opposite the basement door wall. Dining room to the right, mudroom to left:
Screen Shot 2013-12-19 at 10.17.57 PM


Lesson Of The Day: Insurance Inspector Jobs Aren't "Real Jobs"

The past two weeks I’ve dealt with two different Insurance Inspectors from our new insurance company.

Inspector One: I can only do the inspection one day this week because this isn’t my real job.

Me: But that day doesn’t work for our contractor.

Inspector One: Well, I’m not coming any other day because I have a real job and I can’t leave my real job to do this. That’s the only day I can do it.

Inspector One drops out of the picture due to a family emergency and Inspector Two calls to schedule.

Inspector Two: I live nearby so I can come over any time.

I give him a day and a time.

Inspector Two: I can’t come over at that time because this is a side job for me. I have a real job. This is just a way for me to make extra money during the holidays.

Me: That’s nice.

Inspector Two: No it’s not. It’s not worth it, believe me.

I tell him the contractor says any day after Tuesday will work for him.

Inspector Two: That doesn’t work for me because I have a lot of holiday parties coming up and I can’t spread myself thin.

I could have pointed out it’s probably not wise to take a job to make extra money during the holidays if you can’t work because it’s the holidays. But instead, I gave him LC’s number and let them work out a time.

Our Favorite Windows

Me to LC when we hired him - “We absolutely love the two leaded glass windows and no matter what, we definitely want to keep them.”

Well, it turns out we can keep them. Just not as windows.

So I’ve been researching my options and have come up with a few things we can do that might be nice.

Hung inside the window:


On the wall:

Turned into a shelf:
Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 12.04.10 AM

Used as a glass door for a cabinet:
Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 12.29.58 AM

Over a doorway:
Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 12.49.28 AM

What Wood You Do?

We know we’re going to put wood floors downstairs. What we don’t know is how wide they’re going to be. This has led to me looking at the width of every wooden floor I see and imagining it in our living room or dining room, and occasionally in our foyer when I’m not imagining the foyer tiled.

It has also led to a little research which I hope will help us decide.

Thin Wood (under 3 1/4 inches) vs. Wide Wood (Over 3 1/4 inches)

Screen Shot 2013-12-13 at 11.48.51 PMScreen Shot 2013-12-13 at 11.51.38 PM

  • Thinner wood makes the room look longer, wider wood makes the room look shorter
  • Thinner wood has a more formal look, wider wood’s look is more casual
  • Wider wood shrinks and swells more than thinner wood
  • With wider wood, there’s more likelihood of separation between cracks
  • Wider wood is more expensive
  • My Mom’s thin wood looks nice, as does the wide wood in my endodontist’s office

Another Closet Down

Well, we’ve had another loss in the closet battle, which is threatening to kill our already challenged wardrobe. Turns out when you put in Central Air you need a space to store the unit. And where is that space going to be? Yup one of our closets under the eaves.

Goodbye, potential closet. Hello, cool summers. May you be worth the sacrifice and may MVP Mom rent out some closet space.

IMG_0805 vals closet

How Many TVs Are In Your House?

LC says we’re at the point where we need to decide about wiring for electronics, i.e. computer and cable tv.

The conversation went like this:

Question 1: How many televisions do you want in the house and where do you want them?

Our answer: Just one. In the living room.

LC seemed a bit surprised. Apparently lots of his clients want a tv in almost every room.

Question 2: Do you want us to wire the rooms for computers or will you use wireless?

Our answer: Wireless.

Question 3: Are you sure you only want just one tv in the house?

Our answer: Yes.

Question 4: You don’t want one upstairs?

Our answer: No.

Question 5: Maybe in your bedroom? Or a guest room?

My final answer: TVs will be a thing of the past very soon. They’re really just monitors.

His final reply: Think about it and get back to me.


If You Can't Stand The Heat, You're Not In Our Kitchen

LC says there will be no place for baseboard heating in the kitchen. Our options? Either radiant floor heat or a kickspace heater.

Pros and Cons of Radient Floor Heating

Screen Shot 2013-12-08 at 10.31.49 AM
Pros :
  • No dust particles flying in the air
  • Reduces energy cost
  • Is virtually silent

  • Takes time to heat up
  • More effective at heating the floor to the touch vs the entire room
  • Expensive to repair

Pros and Cons of Kickspace Heaters

Screen Shot 2013-12-08 at 9.54.01 AM
  • Sits under a floor cabinet out of sight
  • Heats up quickly
  • Will have its own thermostat

  • Can be loud
  • Will need servicing every other year or so
  • Will need replacing any time after 5 years

Not sure which way we’re leaning with this decision. One thing we do know after standing in the gutted house for hours yesterday: heat is very important.

The Cold Hard Facts

Sig Other and I spent a few freezing hours with LC at the house today talking walls - and anything that might dictate where the walls will go.

After much discussion and a brush with possible frost bite, here’s the takeaway:
  1. Standup shower is back in the downstairs bathroom
  2. Bathtub is out of the upstairs bathroom due to the logistics of the space and a standup shower is in
  3. Teensy Tiny room is going to be a combo office/closet
  4. Kitchen/dining room will be open with an island, and sadly my favorite little door between the kitchen and stairwell will be taken out
Here’s the latest shot of the kitchen/dining room. It’s been completely opened up.
kitchen dr open 2

We're Back In Business

MVP Mom called with the news: “Hammers are banging and more windows are going in.” Finally!

Next on our todo list: Meet with LC and decide once and for all where the walls are going up. Without dormering, the house doesn’t give us many choices. But one change I’d like to make is adding a real closet upstairs. Unfortunately every time I point this out to LC he points at the teensy tiny room and says to make it a walk-in closet. Sig Other keeps saying, “That’s not happening.”

I’m not sure how the closet battle will end. I just hope it ends with an actual closet somewhere.

Walking The Floor Over Our Floors

Choosing a flooring is hard enough. Choosing where it will go is mind boggling.

Case in point: Our foyer, which sits between the living room and dining room and holds the stairwell (and hopefully the door to the downstairs bathroom, as well).

These pictures of the pre-gutted foyer explain our options - all of which we’ve decided to do at one point or another. None of which we’ve landed on as the definitive way to go.

Option A.
Foyer Floor Option A

Option B.
Foyer Floor Option B

Option C.
Foyer Floor Option C

The Room Of Many Names

I’ve been referring to it as the back porch, the room that’s always freezing, the mudroom, and the laundry room. Sig Other refers to it as his sunroom.

LC says it’s the last room we’re gonna do because we have yet to solve the layout. But I think we’re getting closer.

1. This is where you walk in through the back door.

2. This is where the kitchen table will go. (The back door is to the left of the 2 windows on the left hand side.)

3. This is probably where the washer and dryer will go. (this window is next to the two windows that are on the right hand side in the previous picture) Problem: If the washer and dryer are stacked, we’ll lose a window.
backporch to kitchen

4. In order to get the washer and dryer side by side, I’ve asked LC to consider moving the door that’s between the back porch and the kitchen over.

5. If you’re standing in the kitchen, the door would move to the left. LC is suggesting we move it over and just keep the doorway open and not have a door there. I’m suggesting he make sure that back room has some serious heat before we decide if it needs a door or not. Sig Other is suggesting we do whatever we want as long as his sunroom doesn’t lose a window.
kitchen back door

I Need A Light

Dear Renovation Hardware in NYC,

Can you please have all the pendant lights you sell on your website hanging in your store instead of the same one hanging over and over again?

How am I supposed to sell Sig Other on a specific light if we can’t see it in person?

Thank you.

p.s. this is the light I was looking for: