Sunday, May 25, 2014

Well, Well, Well.

These last few days, it's been all about the well. Our 100-year old house came equipped with the original, brick-lined, 100-year-old well. It looks like the kind of well where you'd make a wish on a coin and throw it in.

Charm aside, therein lies the problem... you actually could throw a coin into our well. Or, you know, a raccoon. Or a person. Because it had no top.

We knew when we bought the house that the well had flunked basically every test we ran on it. Bacteria? Check. Poor flow? Check. A gaping, dangerous hole filled with several feet of water in the middle of our yard? Check.

So we were prepared to put a bunch of time and money into it, and though it's not glamorous or really photo-worthy, it's super important to get done before that looming June 1st move-in date.

To date, we have:

  • sealed the top (which turned out to be ENORMOUSLY expensive because, shockingly, they don't make prefab covers that fit hand-dug century-old wells)
  • installed a UV filter 
  • Spent two days digging a giant trench in the backyard to accommodate buried conduit for the power to the well pump - because that cord had just been lying in the grass. Found that one out after the lawnmower had already run it over...

Well, that was harder than it had to be...

I also had this fantasy, which I now realize is clearly insane, that hiring contractors worked like this: you do your research and find a reputable person. You call or email them. Within 24-48 hours, they respond via your preferred method of communication. They schedule a time in the next week or so, do the work, and you give them a reasonable amount of money. Done.

HAHAHAHHAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa wah. 

Except for our electrician (the reliable, friendly, accessible - and pretty darn cute - Eric of Ocean Electric) it's taken multiple days, phone calls, emails, and hassle to get anything done. Result: it's been a slow and unproductive few days, there's an uninstalled water heater in our basement, and I'm crabby and tired.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

From Destruction to Construction; or, I May Yet Survive This

Wahoo! We have moved on to actually putting things together, instead of just strategically destroying them. Not that I dislike destruction, mind you - I have a BFA in tech theatre, and striking the set is everyone's favorite part - but I was starting to panic about being ready to move in two weeks from now.

I'm going to live like this forever. 

So I am happy to announce that we are DONE with the breakfast bar! After cutting it down, we spent much of this weekend making it a level, strong support for the countertops. The light switches (which were previously in kind of crazy locations) have been combined into one switch at the end of the bar. We even re-installed the cabinet we had to remove and lower to fit under the newly-lowered top.

Here's a very manly Brett at work, installing that nice flat top:

The corner cabinet back in place:

We also did a ton of housekeeping stuff - got the floor cleared off for the refinisher next week, pulled up the last of the carpet tacks and nails, took down the old light fixture that I'm cannibalizing for parts (more on that later), and lots and lots of shop-vaccing. Seriously, how did I live without a Shop-Vac???? Those things are AMAZING. I'm pretty sure that large rolling canister holds a very hungry, very thorough demon trapped inside. 

I feel so relieved! Getting this done and being ready to move forward is such a weight off my mind. I feel like I can really start thinking seriously about next steps now, instead of secretly worrying that we're never really going to get there.

So, upcoming projects:

- Building pendant lights for kitchen
- Patching drywall (lots and lots of patching, in the ceiling no less... hoo boy)
- Figuring out how on earth to build a structure that can support our bajillion-pound ceramic undermount sink. Suggestions, anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Oh, the drama.

The vast majority of the downstairs has gorgeous, 100-year-old fir floor. It's not in great condition and it's pretty thin by now, but I don't mind - it's a warm, lovely and loved kind of look.

Dirty and well-loved, but it's home!

The only area without it was the living room, which had wall-to-wall carpet. Brett said he was absolutely certain that the original floor was underneath, that it was pretty trendy for a while just to lay carpet over.
We were unhappily surprised to pull up the carpet and discover... plywood. There was even a line where you could see that some of the original floor had been cut so the plywood would sit flush. AUGH.

We called in a flooring guy to get a quote for matching the original floor. I really love the look, and it's not a big space so continuing the line all the way through the first floor really helps it feel larger. Even he could barely believe his eyes - he had to verify several times to convince himself that yes, somebody actually had removed a gorgeous old wood floor to put in plywood subfloor.

We've started referring to this guy as the Floor Whisperer - he's that good. He tapped on the floor and could tell by the sound that we can only sand it and refinishing it once more. Seriously. He also knows we're on a budget. So when the estimate came in somewhere between mind-boggling and all-the-money-we-set-aside-for-the-entire-kitchen-reno, we knew that was really the lowest possible amount, and that we were going to have to figure something else out. However, nothing we came up with really appealed to me.

I went away for a weekend, and Brett bribed one of his friends with beer and barbecue to come over and help pull up the plywood, in preparation for laying down something new (whatever that something would turn out to be.)

I was in the midst of lamenting to my mother about the flooring pickle when I got a flood of text messages and pictures. The guys had FOUND THE ORIGINAL FLOOR! It was underneath the plywood, a half-inch lower than the floor in the rest of the house.

Total mood turn-around!

Brett exposing what he now calls "wood gold."

There are some holes in the floor from where the plywood was nailed down, but actually by and large being covered for the last decade means that a lot of this floor is in better shape than the floor in the rest of the house. There's definitely still lots of work to be done - t's a variety of colors, some chunks are missing around the transitions and the rest need to be eased into the higher floor around it, and we discovered that a small bump-out is actually an addition so it never had any nice floor to begin with. But it's going to look just right, for a fraction of the price, and hopefully before we have to move in.


I'll post a picture when the work is done.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Screw your courage to the sticking place. Also, nail, staple, and epoxy...

A few days ago, we decided to tackle the "decorative" piece of drywall hanging from the ceiling, making a visual divider between the kitchen and dining room. I'm sure this giant, useless, yellow, curved piece that blocks a lot of light and makes the ceiling look shorter was really cool at some point... well, maybe not, but somebody sure thought it was.

We figured it would take about an hour to remove this. AHAHAHAHA. 

I climbed the ladder, excited to use our shiny new drywall saw for the first time. 
"Ok, just stab it in there. You need to make a keyhole," coached my husband.
"Sure!" I said, pulled my arm back, and stabbed as hard as I could.

The saw bounced.

No hole, not even a dent, nothing. When Brett managed to pull himself together after a solid minute of nearly choking to death laughing at me, he climbed the ladder to do it himself. Nothing.

So we peeled away a little of the paint, and discovered that this piece was not drywall at all. It was wood. And it had studs. And plywood. And a layer of laminate. Basically, if you wanted to build a nuclear bunker out of wood, you would want to hire the guy who built this thing into our ceiling.

As we cut into it with our hand saw and hit it with the sledgehammer, we discovered it wasn't just nailed in place, either. It was nailed in, of course, and with nails gigantic enough to hold up the whole house. It was also screwed. And somebody had a field day with the staple gun and brad nailer. Also, it was glued together AND TO THE CEILING AND WALL.

Finally we had to give up and go borrow a reciprocating saw. So a full 24 hours after we started our one hour project, here's Brett finally freeing the first section.

Two days, lots of sore muscles, and one very late night later, we had it down!

Hermione was unimpressed by the carnage. How does she manage to sleep through the sawing and smashing? Brett and I have had headaches for days.

And this was supposed to be the easy part. We are in for a wild ride...