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Monday, October 05, 2015

Goodbye, Ancestral Home

Hi. The last time I posted here, we were in the middle of a kitchen renovation and I was (finally!) pregnant.

Both of those things turned out pretty well.

The kitchen was the last of the truly huge projects we wanted to do, and we got it done in time to host Thanksgiving. A few months later, we had twins, and everything pretty much ground to a halt.

We always knew that this wasn't going to be the house we stayed in forever; we had come to a decision that, with three bedrooms, we'd have to move out of this house when we had our second child, so that we could give each child their own room and still have space for guests, since we have family and friends who visit from all over. Then we had two children at once, and our timeline changed.

All this is to say that it is time. We will be settling on our new house next week; it's a lot more move-in ready than this one was, but there are still projects to do. And yes, there is another kitchen renovation in my future. I hope, if you're a long-time reader seeing this pop up in your blog feed after years of absence, that you'll consider heading over to where I've consolidated my online presence: my website. The blog there features my writing about all the topics which used to be on several blogs all over the internet: cooking, renovating, parenting, writing, and more. You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.

This blog will remain up as an archive - heaven knows there are still people reading that caulk tutorial! I'm happy to say that we are not selling the Pile; we have found a renter who will be moving in shortly after we move out, so we will continue to own this house so that it stays in the family.

I'm looking forward to a new house, but I'm really proud of everything we've accomplished here. Not many people do a gut-job renovation themselves, while living in the house. It was a long, hard job, but this house has been a wonderful place to live for nearly ten years. I hope you'll head over to the new website to see the new projects we're taking on.

Thanks for reading.

Left: January 21, 2006.   Right: October 5, 2015.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

death of a kitchen: two weekends

The story of the last couple of weekends, directly from Instagram.

 So now we have a completed subfloor. Next up: Labor Day weekend and a lot of framing and plumbing.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013


The kitchen renovation is going to start very soon.

Last night, we moved the dining room table into the office to serve as a holding area for kitchen stuff (and to get it out of the way). The dining room is now empty, and all of the kitchen appliances will be moving in there soon. We'll keep the fridge and the microwave plugged in, but everything else will be dark - no stove, no laundry, no dishwasher.

Yesterday we went to Costco and stocked up on paper plates and cups, plus all sorts of frozen pre-made foods we'll be able to microwave for dinner. That and the Wegmans prepared food section will see us through the next couple of months, I suspect.

Tonight, we'll start packing away the nonessentials - champagne flutes, salad spinners, etc. We'll continue the packing slowly through the rest of this week, keeping everything functional as long as we can. We may even rip out some of the floor before we lose the stove and dishwasher; we'll get as much done with a functional kitchen as we can.

The plan, as it stands right now:
  • Demo everything
  • New joists and subfloor
  • Frame in powder room and coat closet
  • Reroute HVAC vents as necessary
  • Reroute plumbing
  • Electrical - the entire kitchen will be rewired (by an electrician, specifically) from the main box instead of the creepy old auxiliary one it's running off of now
  • Drywall
  • Paint
  • Concrete board and tile entire floor in both kitchen and powder room
  • Install fixtures in powder room, finally get to pee downstairs again
  • Cabinets - must be ordered by the 25th in order to take advantage of a sale, but they will live in the garage til we're ready for them
  • Countertops and sink
  • Re-install appliances
  • Finishing details like switchplates and maybe a backsplash and knobs and things
  • Eat real food again

Sunday, July 07, 2013

skilled labor

Don took the week off this week to demolish and rebuild the floor in the unused half of the kitchen. We ripped out the bathroom and closets over there a while ago, so it was ready for the floors to be ripped up and rebuilt. Just as he did in the rest of the house, he either sistered joists or laid new ones to create a level base for a new subfloor.

The mudroom created a bit more of a problem - it was, inexplicably, built upon some kind of concrete slab. So when he ripped out the floor, expecting to find more crawlspace, he found instead... concrete. Really hard concrete. It took him all day yesterday just to drill holes in it to secure a low frame for the new subfloor.

Today, all that's left of the project is one section of subfloor and then to run the plumbing for the washer and dryer back out to the mudroom - it got cut back during demolition as it was all over the place. We'd planned to run it beneath the floor - but now we know why it was above the floor to begin with, as there is no way to get anything through that concrete. So we'll run it neatly on the floor along the wall and built a small soffit around it, which will in turn be covered by some sort of bench or shoe rack.

The last step, of course, is to get the washer and dryer out of the dining room and back in place so I can do all of the laundry that's built up this week...

Saturday, July 06, 2013

kitchen pinterest

Since it's become clear that we will be at least doing SOME of the kitchen renovation this year - we uncovered some pipes during demolition of the unused half of the kitchen, and they'll have to be re-covered before the first hard freeze! - I've taken the opportunity to make myself a 'kitchen ideas' board on Pinterest, so I can make note of things that I'm thinking about doing in there.

We have a basic idea of what we're doing - we know the cabinets we'll be using, and we have at least a vague idea of what will go where. There are still a few decisions to be made, layout-wise - like, will we put a separate freezer in the hall closet, or just make it all pantry space? (For the record, I want the freezer - I HATE the idea of having to go to the basement for the spare freezer, and thus if we put one there it'll never get used. Pointless.) And we can't really pull together an exact plan until the room is empty - who knows what's behind that drywall? There's no way to plan to the inch until every inch is exposed.

But we know, in a general sense, where the sink and stove and refrigerator will go, etc. So I've been thinking about finishes, and organization, and that sort of thing. Hence, Pinterest. Feel free to take a look over there if you're interested in the things I'm thinking about, kitchen-wise.

Friday, June 28, 2013

master bathroom update

This before-and-after is even more dramatic than the guest bathroom's, because when we moved in, our master bathroom wasn't even a bathroom. It was a closet. Inside of another closet. With a sink in it.


Very strange. We gutted it, and found room for a full five-piece master bathroom; the air-bubbler tub went under the eave of the roof, and the gigantic hallway landing got a little smaller as we took space for a walk-in shower. The tub setting was very dramatic, as I recall.

 Nowadays, it looks like this:

 This photo, incidentally, was taken from the same angle as the very first one of the 'summer kitchen' above. Quite a difference, no?

(And yes, in the interest of transparency, I didn't really bother to clean up or stage the bathroom. This is what it looks like all the time, toothpaste, vitamins, and all.)

As for that shower:

Still to do: I'd like to put a towel ring in between the mirrors so that a hand towel can hang there instead of on the vanity. I'd also like to hang some art on the empty wall above the light switches. Also we need a new toothbrush holder, but that's probably on a slightly different decorative scale, not so much 'decor' as 'stop our toothbrushes from falling over'.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

an update! an update!

Oh, hi. It's, uh, been a while.

Over two years, apparently. Sorry about that.

I've had some requests to post updates about the house and what sort of shape it's in, and now seems like a good time, as we're about to embark on our final big project - wrangling the kitchen into a reasonable facsimile of a normal kitchen instead of Frankenstein's kitchen. I'll post about that later, but I thought the first thing I would do is give a little house tour with updates.

The last thing pretty much anybody heard from me construction-wise here was when we were in the midst of completing the bathrooms. Let's start with the guest bathroom. You can get a refresher of where we were mid-tile installation here - but I'm going to go with a little more dramatic before and after.

Anybody remember when the upstairs bathroom looked like this?

That's a photo from our home inspection, six years ago. The toilet was perched diagonally in a corner under the eave of the roof; a window and a radiator took up all of the usable wall space and the sink was in a little alcove behind the tub and under the eave, so you had to crouch to look into it.

Obviously, we gutted the place. For a while it looked like this:

Now, it looks like this:

And behind the tub, in that little alcove? Storage. A little cabinet I found on sale and painted white, to store guest supplies. We thought about building shelves into the alcove but this worked out very well.

I'm still missing some sort of nice artwork to hang in the empty wall space over the toilet, but overall it's done. This bathroom currently gets a lot of use, because it's right at the top of the stairs and we've ripped out the sole downstairs bathroom. Once we have a downstairs bathroom again, this will once again be solely the realm of our occasional guests and a room for the cat to drink out of the toilet when she thinks nobody is looking.