Did you miss us?
We we are officially moved into the house now for about 2-3 months. After the floors, painting, and moving, I needed a long break from actually working on the house. Plus I got tendinitis in my hand from all the work and it’s taken forever to heal!
One of our summer projects though has been to put new grass and planting’s in the front yard. There were a couple trees we had removed (Shout out to On A Limb!) which made a big difference on the front curb appeal. The pictures above show the before and after. What a transformation!
We passed our final inspections this week! Guess what that means?!
In honor, I'm posting a before and after shot of the kitchen/dining room. Since we still have A LOT of painting and decorating to do, this is not going to be the end of the journey....more to come!
I normally like to start the blog updates with pictures. But this story needs some explaining before we get to the good stuff. I've mentioned previously that we have a tight budget and so we are doing some things ourselves. One of my bright ideas was to refinish the floors ourselves. I cannot possibly articulate in a blog post how naive this idea was. I thought "How hard can it be?"
Spoiler alert. Really. Fucking. Hard.
About two weeks ago, in a panic, I called my brother and asked him if he would be willing to fly up from Alabama to help us with the floors. Even though it was his birthday, he agreed to help us out. But, he could only come for 2 full days - Thursday and Friday. I wasn't able to take Thursday off of work, but did take Friday off to help. Sometime around Thursday afternoon, I sent him a text to see how it was going. "Slow" was his response. Then sometime around 5:30 on Thursday he texts "There is no way I'm going to be finished sanding by tomorrow". Uh oh
Friday was my own version of torture. We rented a second drum sander so we could both sand at the same time. We started at 8 and by 5 we were both toast. At that point, we had the second floor rough sanded and edged. But the first floor was only rough sanded. Paul and I ended up finishing up on Saturday and Sunday. If you are not familiar with the process of refinishing floors I'm going to break down the steps for you now.
- Rough sand the floors - this involves multiple passes with a drum sander to get the floors flat and the existing finish off. typical floors need 60-80 git sand paper. We had to use 25...so basically beaver teeth to get the finish off
- Edge floor - the drum sander can't get the 6" perimeter so you need to use an edger. The edger is the same weight at a smaller toddler, so like 30lbs. And in order to use it correctly, you have to squat and hold it. I am not joking when I say my max time doing this was about 5-10 min before I needed to take a break.
- Vacuum floors
- Resand floors - this time with 80 grit sandpaper. This step went much faster.
- Vacuum floors
- Tack floors (when you wipe them down with a barely damp cloth)
- Apply sealer - since we were doing clear poly over bare wood, we opted for a sealer.
- Buff floors - This time with 120 grit sand paper
- Vacuum floors AGAIN
- Tack floors AGAIN
- Apply First coat of poly. We used Bona Traffic HD in the Ultra Matte finish
We still have one more buff and poly coat to do which won't be until this weekend. I'm proud to say we did finish the first coat of poly by noon on Sunday. But I needed a 4 hour nap afterwards and I'm still sore. It was probably the hardest thing I've ever done. Like, I would go through childbirth again before refinishing floors - no joke. In hindsight..we should have hired someone to do this for us as it would have been money well spent.
Jake working hard
There have been a couple projects we have taken on ourselves. I woke up one Saturday morning and thought "I think we are going to do the floors in the playroom/laundry room today". It was the last weekend my mom was here to watch the girls all day for us and it seemed like the last project that definitely required two people. The room that connects the barn to the house is really big. It's currently where the laundry is located and we decided not to change the location. Eventually this will be our mudroom, but for the immediate couple of years its going to function as the laundry and playroom. Its right off the kitchen so you can see the kids and there is plenty of room for both. Who knows...maybe we can teach the girls to put in a load of laundry between coloring!
The flooring in this room had asbestos in the glue. Most people here asbestos and have a panic attack, but its not really dangerous if you are not planning on removing it. Removing it in our case was going to be incredibly expensive and not necessary since we can put a floating floor right over it without touching it. We chose this wood veneer flooring from home depot that looks like old barn wood. I love it! And it was so easy to install. We had the whole room almost completed in about 6 hours. We still have to add a piece of trim around the edges, but I want to wait until after we paint so I don't have to be as careful. We also installed new beadboard behind where the washer and dryer are going to match the other panelling in the room. My plan right now is to paint all the existing panelling white and the trim around the windows, but we will see. I might go with a color instead of white.
After the countless hours of removing all of this wall paper in the front hall and upstairs hallway, I thought we would just be able to put up a little spackle and paint. Boy was I wrong. There is not enough spackle in the world that could've made these walls look okay. So we had a painter come out and skim coat the walls. It took him almost 4 days to do this work...but it was worth every penny! Now, with the exception of the den and the two upstairs bedrooms, all of the walls in the house are basically new.
Let me take a minute here and say this was probably the backwards way to do things. In reality, we should have demo'd all the walls and started completely new. And we were advised to do that. But it just wasn't in the budget to demo all the walls in the house. You could make the argument that we spent more money on working with what was there, but I don't believe in the end it would have been less expensive to demo every wall. Also, we would have needed to replace all of the trim in the house...and the trim is beautiful. Its not something that would have been easy or even possible to replicate, so I made the decision that having imperfect walls was better over removing all the trim. Just one of those decisions you have to make and then live with...and I feel like we made the right decision for us in the end.
Whenever the lights are installed in one of our Hawthorn projects, it’s my favorite day. The lighting in a house is so important and really makes it feel like a home. Over the last two weeks the electricians have been busy installing the lights and everyday is like Christmas. I’m particularly obsessed with the new front door lights. They are so pretty and I got butterflies in my stomach tonight when I drove up and saw them installed!
Our new kitchen counters got installed today! I went with a granite called Silver Grey which looks very similar to soapstone but with none of the maintenance issues. The kitchen looks huge and I love how much counter space we are going to have.
Paul and I spent the whole weekend prepping and painting. It was a lot of work but we made good progress. I’m lowering my expectations for how ‘done’ this house will be when we move in at the end of May. But counters are a good start!
Lots of progress this week! The tile is pretty much completely installed. We were short one box of the master shower wall tile. Normally this wouldn't be a big deal, but its a new porcelain Calcutta tile and its been really popular, so in between when I ordered it and when it got installed, it went out of stock and is backordered until June! After the panic wore off, my lovely tile guru at Best tile in Dedham called me to tell me she found one lonely box in their Albany warehouse. Phew
I love all the tile so much. I really agonized over the tile for the master bath especially, since I'm going for a more modern vibe in this house, but not so modern that it looks totally out of place in a 200 year old colonial. For the girls bath we went with a simple greige penny round on the floor and 6x6 white tile in an offset pattern on the tub wall. I didn't want to spend any real money in here because I plan to wallpaper. For the master bath I'm really excited about the marble look without the maintenance. And I have always loved Calcutta marble. This is a good fake, non?
The third picture above is the powder bath. Like most people, I'm really digging the patterned tiles, but I'm a little concerned about their trendiness. So, I decided this was the perfect room. Its a tiny bathroom and there is not a lot we can do with the space, so it was a perfect dressing up without committing to a whole kitchen floor of the patterned tile.
Cabinets got delivered this week and the carpenters start next monday!
Its been 31 days since my last post. I've been struggling a lot with this whole process. The last couple of weeks of New England weather has not helped the situation. Our heat still isn't set up so we have been heating the house with electric space heaters. Thats right, 2400 SF with 3 electric space heaters. This requires daily checks to make sure we haven't burn the place down or the electricity draw hasn't tripped a breaker. Even with all of this, we are still 2 weeks behind on plaster because of the snow. The plasterers were very patient however with the current situation and it looks great. I'm daring to hope that we might (Finally!!!) be on the upswing. Tile starts tomorrow and the gas meter is being installed, so we will finally have heat. Now that the board and plaster is complete and with tile starting, we can start the bulk of the paint prep.
Paul deserves some major credit. I do this all day for a living, but managing this project has been stressful. In my mind at night I just rehash over and over the really long list of things we still have to do...and that list is long. He has been a rock though. Endlessly helpful and very positive. He gets excited when anything happens. I see it all the time at work - renovations really test a marriage.
From now until May there will be a lot more posts as all the fun stuff starts happening. All the ordered light fixtures have arrived and I love all of them. Our tile is at the house and the kitchen cabinets shipped today. The best part is - I put an SOS out to my mom and she is now coming for 6 weeks to watch the girls on the weekends so both Paul and I can work on the house stuff. Its a big deal since we are living in a 900 SF apartment right now! I can't wait!
The decision between spray foam and fiber glass was an easy one theoretically but a hard one financially. In old homes when you have open exterior walls, spray foam is a no brainer. It’s far superior and really the only way you will meet current R values when you have 4” exterior walls. In our case, we only have the kitchen walls and master bed/bath/closet walls exposed. Even still, spray foam was a thousand dollars more than fiberglass or 30% more. And because of the water lines running through the basement crawl space, we had to spray foam that as well, which added another $1250. Excuse me while I breath into a bag...
Despite the cost difference, this was the best choice. We are (hopefully) never going to gut these rooms again and it’s the only way to get good insulation in these walls. We are also paying so much to run a new heating and cooling system, we didn’t want to regret not spending the extra money here. The plan is to put new blown in insulation in the front part of the house next fall when we have (hopefully) replenished the coffers.
On to blueboard, plaster, and still more wallpaper removal!