Spring = Slacking

I am a person of extremes.  This is no secret.  I love a lot of things; I hate a lot of things.  One of the things I hate most in this world: Spring Forward.  I dread daylight savings time for weeks leading up to it, and the night before ‘spring forward’ is reminiscent of the night before my law school finals.  This year, the only reason I didn’t completely loathe the arrival of ‘spring forward’ was my belief that the extra daylight hours would give me all kinds of motivation to put in long hours at the house.

I was mistaken.  Between the distraction of warm weather and Erica’s Saint Patrick’s Day party luring me to Louisville, I have gotten little to nothing done in the last couple weeks…. both at the house or on the blog.

Fortunately, the progress has been pushed along by the two people who never let me down: my parents.

Their contributions to this project are not new; they have put in hundreds of hours since the fall.  At the risk of sounding like a little kid, this process has brought back my childhood belief that my dad truly can do anything- whether it’s lay an impeccable hardwood floor, plan out a kitchen, or do professional quality tile work.  I have done most of the grunt work, but anything that required fine skill has fallen to my dad.  My mom, on the other hand, has no qualms about taking on the much less glamorous, yet incredibly valuable, roles.  She has probably cleaned my house more times in the last six months than she has cleaned her own, even though it’s my dad and I generating the dust, debris, and very mess that she’s cleaning.  Without their support and skill, I would be stubbornly living in a hastily and poorly finished version of what my house is on its way to becoming.

I have never been more thankful for their effort than these last two weeks when the only progress at all was their doing.  In fact, they worked the whole weekend while I was in Louisville… having a few extra beers to compensate for my guilt that they were working there without me.  They got so much accomplished, with no help from me whatsoever.

My dad did a phenomenal job tiling the shower.

ImageThe majority of the shower is a basic glossy, white ceramic tile.  I debated a more modern look with larger, colored tiles, but for resale purposes, I opted for a look that was timeless, simple, and clean with the white squares.  For the sake of some unique quality, I picked out the smaller version of the floor tiles to use as an accent strip around eye height inside the shower.  The purpose was not only to add some variety to a basic design, but to tie the shower in with the look / color scheme of the rest of the room and create some overall consistency.

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When he wasn’t tiling, my parents installed the door to the left closet in the back bedroom, primed the left door, and put a first coat of paint on the right door which had been hung last week.

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Seeing both doors hung definitely brought a feeling of progress to this room.  I hope to have the window seat sanded and primed before my dad returns from his annual golf trip; yes, I felt that he was entitled to a break from slaving away on my behalf.  Only a few rows of floor have been laid in here thus far.  One day in the next few weeks, my dad and I will continue installing the floor.  Then the room will truly feel as though it’s near completion.

If you recall from earlier posts, the front bedroom is essentially finished, awaiting just the installations of the crown molding and the base boards (which are patiently laying in place against the walls).  To allow my brother and I to move forward on repairing the living room walls— as much as I hate the idea of returning to the soul-consuming process of drywall patching and sanding—- we have relocated the pile of unlaid flooring to the front bedroom.

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The most exciting event recently was the installation of the perimeter counters.

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The perimeter counters were manufactured and installed by KBR Counter Top Specialists (http://www.kbrmfg.com).  The experience with them was positive from original measurements, to selecting the exact slab from the yard, to installation; definite recommendation.  The granite I picked out for the perimeters was called “Absolute Black”.

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The black counters were deliberately picked for a clean, consistent design that would be a stark contrast to the white cabinets and brighter island top.  The room looked great even before they came, but I honestly think that the addition of the shiny black granite around the outside draws the whole room together even further.

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While he was waiting on the counter guys / cable guy on his day off Friday (I wasn’t kidding when I said they have gone above and beyond lately while I have been slacking), my dad took the chance to put up window trim around a few windows.  I mentioned this plan in an earlier post.  The windows throughout the house were just sitting in the walls with zero decor or framing to dress them up. My dad had the idea to frame them in using pre-cut molding purchased at Home Depot, and the result is great.  Unfortunately, it is seemingly impossible to get a decent picture of the window trim and the drastic effect it has on the aesthetics of the window, because the light coming through the window always messes with the settings on my phone, which makes it too dark to get a picture.  This picture of the trim in the bathroom is the best depiction I have been able to get of the effect of the window trim.

Before:

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After:

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I’m well aware that the addition of the window trim isn’t exactly a jaw-dropping “before and after.” However, I can assure you that this is largely due to the quality of the pictures I am able to take with the light and my phone settings.  The pictures simply do not capture it accurately.  In addition to the bathroom, he trimmed the big window in the front bedroom, as well as the two windows in the kitchen.  This is the best depiction I could gather of the window over the kitchen sink without trim and with trim:

Before:

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After:

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I am slowly getting back into the hang of working multiple days a week for long hours, although many would question the merit of what my time is being focused on.  If you read my basement entry, you know how instantly I formed an attachment to the basement of this house… the visions of my home theater and March Madness swirling through my head. With the primary renovations to the first floor taking longer than I originally, no actual improvement has been done to the basement, although I have torn out all the 60’s paneling, carpet, and tiled ceiling.  Unfinished as the basement and the rest of the house may be, March Madness is taking place just as I promised myself it would.

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Some thank you’s are in order:

-To my Uncle Kelly for loaning a temporary screen and helping me get my projector up and running

-To my Uncle Tim for getting my cable and internet setup throughout the house, including the basement

-To my friend Greg for helping me fine tune the projector and sound system for optimal results.

With their week-night help, I have some perfect accommodations for the obscene amount of basketball watching that is about to take place this week.  Tis the season, friends.  Go Cats.

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March’ing Along

If I have another title with that kind of pun in it, I may have to delete this blog altogether, because I’m somewhat disgusted in myself.  Nevertheless…

Today is March 10th.  The last two months have been extremely productive, and the first ten days of March have been not exception. I am at an exciting period in this process where it seems like there is always new progress taking shape that has a significant impact.  Gone are the days of hours of work – patching, sanding, patching, sanding, patching, sanding – that seemed to yield no results.

Here is the overview of what has taken place in March the last ten days…

The bathroom floor was tiled.

The tile was purchased at Mernard’s back in the fall and has been collecting dust in various locations ever since, being moved from room to room, constantly in the way of other work.  On March 1st, it was time for them to be laid.  Back when the tile was purchased, I had been searching for a design slightly different than just a typical grid pattern of same-sized square tile.  I saw this somewhere, and it didn’t seem like it would be hard to replicate.  The primary concern with this lay out was knowing where to begin in the room that would avoid having a lot of tiny pieces in places, as the room isn’t a perfect rectangle.  Channeling high school assignments that would have made my teachers beam to see them used, I mapped out the pattern to scale on a piece of graph paper (1 square = 2 inches).

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I then cut out a replica of the room made to the same scale.  By laying the sheet with the hole for the room cut out on top of the sheet with the floor pattern mapped, you could shift the room around until you found the setup that incorporated the best layout with the fewest awkward, tiny pieces.  This made it easy to know not only how many tiles we needed of each size (smaller ones were 6 x 6 inches, larger ones were 12 x 12 inches), but also where to lay the first tiles and build out from there.

Following the diagram, the tile turned out exactly as I pictured it:

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Yesterday, the grout was laid in the bathroom, which really brought a flow to the swirls of colors in the tiles.

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The Bathroom Light Fixture Was Hung.

With the tile laid and grout drying, I kept with the theme of pulling long-ago purchased items from their boxes and installing them by hanging the bathroom light fixture.

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This light fixture was probably the most uncharacteristically-Kyle purchase I have made for the house.  I’m definitely a traditionalist and am generally not into the sleek, modern look.  For some reason, this light fixture caught my attention of all the basic, traditional globe ones in the aisle, and I thought it would go with the clean, modern look I am going for in the bathroom.  At the same time, I don’t think it’s completely over the top like can happen when people try too hard to go modern.

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I vacillate back and forth between thinking “What a great decision, it’s perfect!” and “Are you sure that’s not too much?”.  Today, I’m the former.  Tomorrow, probably the latter.  I don’t think I will settle on a final decision until the mirror and vanity are installed which, I’m glad to be able to say, shouldn’t be more than another week or two.  I seriously cannot wait to have a functional first floor bathroom again.  In my attempts to resist letting these renovations overtake my life, I still tend to go out and have fun every Friday night and most Saturday nights.  Showing up at the house to work for the day by 730 or 830 the morning after means a lot of bottled water is consumed; sometimes eight or nine over the course of the day.  This, in turn, results in repeated trips down to the basement to the only bathroom that is currently operational, and then back up to resume working.  I swear that this frustration is only 30% laziness; it’s 70% about convenience and time.

This is where the bathroom is as of today:

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 If the bathroom truly was the #1 priority, it could probably be done in a day or two.  All that really remains to be done is:

  • tiling of the shower walls
  • grouting of shower walls
  • installing vanity
  • installing toilet
  • hanging the mirror
  • hanging towel rack, hand towel holders, etc
  • hanging curtain bar and curtain
  • reattaching baseboards

So close… and yet so far.

More Floor Was Laid.

My dad and I keep pushing forward with the floor,and it truly is spreading through the house where before it was only done in the kitchen.  A couple weekends ago, we knocked out the floor in the hallway.

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Although it was a relatively small area compared to the kitchen, the hallway itself took nearly an entire Sunday.  The more door frames involved, the more complicated and detailed cuts need to be made.  Between the basement door, the closet, the bedrooms, and the bathroom, there are five doors in this tiny space for a total of ten frames.  Hence, this area of approximately 50 square feet, which is relatively minimal, required without a doubt the most attention, calculations, and special cutting of anything we had done previously.  It was frustrating to see such a small space consume an entire day, but the end result was pleasing, as the hallway really is the center of the house.

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 By this point, I think my dad and I have become pretty damn good at laying the floor.  We encounter small setbacks and patches that require more attention, but for the most part, we have a system going and are significantly faster than we were when we started.  My primary frustrating was that I felt like we were spending too much time selecting the pieces for each row between actually stapling them down.  I had a middle of the night epiphany a couple Sunday’s ago that this was something I could take care of on a week night and save the valuable weekend time with my dad around for actually laying the floor, as opposed to selecting the pieces.

With Erica having finished busy season, she took a few days off and spent them in Northern Kentucky.  One weeknight, we laid out the entire floor in the front bedroom- laying out the pieces, checking the seams, inspecting for flaws, etc.  After an hour, when we had the entire floor laid out, we labeled each piece with a letter and a number – the letter being the row (from the bathroom wall to the street wall), the number being the order of the piece in the row (from the closet to the driveway wall).  We taped each row’s pieces together and stacked them neatly where they could be grabbed, untaped, and laid in no time.

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 For some reason, anyone who hears that we did remarks on what an “erica idea” it was, or how it was “clearly done by an accountant.”  I guess prosecutors have a reputation for being scatterbrained, impulsive, and disorganized.  Nevertheless, she was a huge help in getting this system implemented, so even though she didn’t even know exactly why we were going over to the house, I guess I will just let everyone credit her for my method.  (eye roll).

Not to pat mysel…. I mean ERICA… on the back, but I was astounded how effective this system was.  The time spent picking pieces and organizing them was spent actually laying the floor, and my dad and I were able to knock out the front bedroom in no time on Saturday.

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With the front bedroom floor laid, baseboards and crown molding are all it needs to be finished.  Late in the day yesterday, we moved across the hall and started taking the floor into the back bedroom.

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Since the decision to start on the guest bedroom floor was spur of the moment, I didn’t get to institute “Erica’s” system from the front bedroom that was such a success.  Hopefully, I will get over there one night this week to lay everything out and get it organized so that it’s ready to go for the weekend.  I can admit though with 100% honesty and zero sarcasm that laying the floor out alone won’t be nearly as easy and certainly not as enjoyable as it was having her with me to do the other room.

A Closet Door in the Back Bedroom Was Installed.

As we were starting to lay the floor in the back bedroom, we needed to go ahead and get the door frames nailed into the closet we’ve added to make the right cuts to the floorboards.  Seeing a door hanging in the closet that has never been anything but empty gave it more of a look of “completion” than I have ever seen in there before.

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 After seeing how good it looked with just one in, I cannot wait to get the door nailed into the left closet and get the full effect of this completely re-imagined portion of the room /  house.

The Hallway Fixture and Pendant Lights Over the Island Were Hung.

At the end of a long Sunday laying floor, we were in need of some quick and satisfying progress, so more light fixtures came out of their hiding places in the front closet.  The pendant lights over the island and the fixture in the hallway were specifically purchased because of their similar look.  The hallway light proved to be the perfect size for that space, although it definitely does not allow for pictures that actually depict what it looks like.

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This fixture doesn’t really produce the same glow as the sun; that’s just how it comes across on my iPhone.  I am pleased with how it looks and fits in the hallway.  Still, this was nothing compared to how happy I was with the pendant lights.

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As soon as I hung them, they added a whole new layer of depth to the kitchen.

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I was beyond thrilled with the pendant lights, and I honestly was blown away by how significant of an effect something so small and simple as a light fixture can have on a room.  After seeing them hung, I couldn’t wait to see how they looked with the granite top on the island.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long….

The Granite Slab for the Island Was Installed. 

When we saw the price tag that our contact at Home Depot was quoting for the island top, it was pretty apparent that I was going to be going the remnant route; especially in light of the success my brother had had finding one for his own house.  This decision worked out so well.

On a rainy Friday during my lunch hour, my mom and I visited a granite company in Newport; total flop.  They were disinterested in helping, their selection wasn’t good, and their pricing structure was full of hidden fee after hidden fee.  I don’t feel the need to post the name of the company and shame them publicly, but if you’re actually in the market for granite yourself, I’d be glad to share it with you directly to spare you the time of going there.

Our second stop was to Ohio Valley Solid Surface in Wilder, KY, just off Licking Pike / AA between Newport and 275 in Wilder.  Complete success.  We dealt with a phenomenal saleswoman named Molly who was completely enthusiastic and personally walked us around the yard of granite remnants instead of the eye roll and point in a general direction that we got at the Newport company.  Within about 10 minutes, we came across a slab that was a swirled mixture of a vast range of colors.  To date, we have identified greys, whites, blacks,  blues, and greens.  Their pricing structure was completely upfront where you paid one flat rate for the slab, edging, and installation instead of multiple added fees onto a seemingly reasonable price that jumped with each addition.

Last week, Ohio Valley came to install the granite for the island.  To say that I am 100% happy with the result would be an understatement.  I am 150% happy.

ImageIt is the perfect center to the kitchen.  I was amazed by how different it looked- in a positive way- in the kitchen than it did in the slab yard.  The green paint on the walls pulls out the greens in the granite that were relatively subtle before.

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I’m anxious to see what effect it has when the perimeter counters are installed on Friday, which are from a line sold at Home Depot called “absolute black.”  Lots of things lately have had a “wow” effect, but getting the granite for the island installed had a “HOLY SHIT! THIS WORK ZONE IS LEGITIMATELY TURNING INTO A HOUSE!” effect.

As you can see, the last couple weeks have been big ones.  As my dad would say, things are really “starting to move forward in giant leaps.”  He assured me for months that this stage would come, and this time, he was telling the truth.  With each day of work, there is something new and significant to appreciate and take a sense of accomplishment from.  My only hope is that we can sustain this rapid progress we have seen in the first ten days of March over the next 4-6 weeks and drag this thing across the finish line.

“I Didn’t Realize Until I Went to College that Not Every House Has a Second Floor Laundry Room.”

Sadly, those words actually came out of Erica’s mouth.  When I told her that I was adding a laundry chute, she got strangely excited and informed me that she had never lived somewhere with a laundry chute.  Then the girl who has never lived in a house more than ten years old uttered the infamous line heading this post.

I don’t mind doing laundry.  In fact, there is something sort of systematic and therapeutic about it that I like.  My problem is getting my clothes to the laundry to begin with, as opposed to them ending up in an ever-growing radius around the laundry hamper in my room.  Adding a laundry chute to my house had the two-fold purpose of not only adding a minor amenity, but also cutting off one of my self-admitted worst habits at the source.  With a laundry chute in my room, my clothes have no excuse to go anywhere about down to the laundry room… not on my recliner, or all over the floor where they will inevitably get pushed under the bed and remain hidden for a month.  Hence, the reasons were adding a laundry chute were obvious, and so was the place to add it.

This 50’s house came with closets that were abnormally big.  In fact, the entire wall that the main bedroom shared with the living room was a closet running the length of this space.  It wasn’t long before we realized that this large closet in what would become the main bedroom was directly over the space in the basement that will be the laundry room.  Thus, the idea to add a laundry chute seemed obvious.

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It took my dad what was probably a couple hours, and yet felt like 30 minutes, to cut a hole in closet floor, drop the sheet metal into place, and frame up the half wall it would be housed in.

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For now, the chute just drops into the storage room in the basement that I’m converting into a laundry room.  Eventually, it would have some sort of framed in receptacle to catch clothes or hold a laundry basket, but for now it just drops into the place where washer and dryer will go.

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Over the next few weeks, when my dad had some free minutes, he drywalled the half wall housing the laundry chute.  The end result: a built-in laundry chute directly from the main bedroom to the laundry room that took little to no useful closet space.

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I never would have guessed that, as a 28 year old man, something as simple as a laundry chute would get me excited, but I have come to learn that when you’re in the midst of a year-long gutting and remodeling, you come to find satisfaction in extremely petty things.  Any sign of forward progress is fulfilling, and the laundry chute was one of them.

Now I just have to teach Erica how it works since she’s never had one….