What I Learned During the Last Week

This whole process has, without question, been a learning experience for me.  Aside from the skills I’ve had to master, home ownership and renovation has required me to acquire a great deal of practical knowledge that I should have known years ago but was too lazy to bother retaining (i.e. how to properly drain exterior pipes / water lines for winter and why we do it).  As we enter the final phase of this project, the lessons continue.  Here is what was learned in the last week….

1. Construction generates a lot of dust, and this dust WILL build up in the filter of your air conditioner and affect its functioning.   I’m not completely clueless; I was previously aware that air conditioners have filters that need to be changed every few months.  As these 85 degree temperatures have been hitting lately, I was forced to accept the hit my wallet was going to take and turn on the air.  On another note, when did I turn into my mother who resists turning on the air at all costs?  While doing physical labor in a house with the windows closed, it doesn’t take long at all to figure out if the AC isn’t working properly.  While laying floor last week, I found myself slipping around on the floor because that sweat was literally dripping off my face as I worked.  The temperature in the house on Saturday morning was 74, despite being set on 66, which led my dad to pull the filter.  Yeah…….. Image For anyone who has never seen or changed an AC filter, check out the blue spot inside the yellow circle… that’s how the filter should look.  So yes, needless to say, 6 months of mudding and sanding drywall caused my AC filter to resemble the lint filter on a dryer.  The dust was literally peeling off in centimeter thick strips.  With a new filter installed, the house was about 8 degrees cooler without an hour, and all is well.  Lesson from this… that horrible drywall dust that is all over the entire house, covering your clothes, and filling your nose and lungs… it’s also getting into your AC filter.

2. You Don’t Necessarily Need to Start Out with Top-of-the-Line Appliances As a kid, refrigerators kept food and juice boxes cold.  As an teenager, the freezer was where the ice cream and frozen pizzas were.  As an adult, refrigerator keep my bottled water cold for me through the week and my beer cold on the weekends.  That was my views on refrigerators up until now. I was in no way prepared for how expensive refrigerators are, and I now see them in a whole different light.  After the initial shock that followed my first trip to look at refrigerators, I was having serious anxiety about spending $1,500 – $2,200 on something whose sole purpose was to keep water, beer, and the occasional juice box (I’m 29, but sometimes you can’t beat a Capri Sun) cold.  Luckily, I got a great deal at the Sears Outlet in Florence on a scratch and dent model. ImageThis Kenmore refrigerator had three small dings toward the top, and it was marked down to about 50% of the retail price.  For the many I paid, it was a steal.  I’m sure I’ll upgrade to something nicer down the road, but for now, I have a nice refrigerator at a price that didn’t cause my heart to race.

3. Pop-up Canopies Are Good For Things Other than Drinking at the Beach When I have gone to Hilton Head with some family and friends in the last few years, we have always set up a pop-up canopy.  While we spend the majority of the time in the sun, the ability to take a break from it and be in the shade for awhile, while still being able to take in the ocean, is great.  Not to mention, it’s a lot easier to keep coolers from heating up when they’re under the cover. Saturday morning was going to be a day with a lot of sawing as I finished the living room floor and my dad moved forward on the woodwork phase- which also happens to be the final phase.  To avoid generating any dust in a house that is relatively finished, we have been setting the saw up in the front yard.  Gone are the days when I would wake up on a Saturday morning to rain and get excited about what great napping conditions the weather was providing.  I was furious Saturday morning to find that, on a day when I needed my saw outside, it was raining, and it was going to continue on and off throughout the day.  Briefly, it appeared that the day going to be a total waste since everything we needed to do required sawing.  Fortunately, my old friends / Hilton Head companions, the Becker’s, came through and loaned me the pop-up canopy that has sheltered me from the sun in the past; this time, however, it served the much more valuable purpose of allowing us to still set the saw up in the front yard. Image While I would much rather be under the canopy with a beer in hand, listening to Kenny Chensey and looking at the ocean, it was a lifesaver on Saturday.  If not for the canopy, I really don’t know what we would have gotten done, because everything we accomplished this weekend involved cutting.  I cannot thank the Becker’s enough for coming through with this.

4. Installing Wood Floor Gets a Bad Rap When I told people months ago that my dad and I would be installing the floors ourselves, some people acted like we were crazy and told me how hard and frustrating it is.  This is simply not true.  Getting started was difficult, but after the first couple days, I feel like we had the process down.  I no longer have to be afraid of jinxing myself when I say that, after finishing the kitchen, we encountered no real issues with the floor.  Both bedrooms went down easily, and the living room has been completed with minimal issues or problems. Image When we were getting ready to tackle the flooring originally, my Uncle Tim borrowed a Bostitch pneumatic flooring stapler from a friend for us to use. Image This thing is seriously great.  It is easy to use, and it does most of the work for you, lessening the physical toll on the body.  Defects and flaws in the floor boards themselves have proven far more prevalent and complicated than the actual process of installing the floor.  On the whole, laying floor has been something I’ve actually enjoyed.  It sort of replicates the satisfaction I get from cutting grass and painting, as you get the instant visual results of watching the floor grow row by row to fill the room.  As the plywood is covered up by finished oak flooring, the room quickly takes on a “real” room feel instead of a construction zone. Now that we are done, I am really glad that I decided to have the same wood floor throughout the house, as opposed to tiling the kitchen or carpeting the bedroom.  The uniform floor contributes to the flow of the house and, in my opinion, makes it look and feel bigger than it would if there were different types of floor materials meeting throughout the house. On Saturday afternoon, I laid the floor in the kitchen pantry. Image This is not exciting to look at it but, nevertheless, it is a milestone; it is the last piece of wood floor to be laid in the house.  The process we began in February is over.  I’m glad to be able to get all the remaining boxes, floor, and tools associated with it out of the house.  Again, laying the floor has been enjoyable for me and is something that I would gladly do again or help a friend do.  I would encourage everyone to not be afraid to take it on as a do-it-yourself project; we found it very manageable, and it was a great way to save a few thousands dollars in cost.

5. Crowing Molding Looks Nice, but It Is a Royal Pain in the Ass. So, yeah, I would absolutely be willing to do flooring again and help a friend with it; I kind of liked it.  On the other hand, we have crown molding.  I hate the process of cutting and hanging crown molding.  I can’t even pretend that I’m doing more than measuring and holding it in place, because my dad does the actual cutting, and I still resent it that much.  Crown molding looks great, and it really can take a house to the next level on the, as it adds some of the “wow” factor.  I like the idea of having crown molding; not how it gets there.  It is the most temperamental, infuriating process where a mere degree or two on your cut can throw off an entire room, leaving you to trace your steps back to find the problem.  I cannot wait to have the crown molding behind us, because even though I enjoy standing back to see how great it looks when a room is finished, I just get increasingly pissed off while it is being hung. Yesterday morning, my dad and I got the crown molding hung in the front bedroom, which went well in comparison to other rooms.

Image Image

From there, we moved into the kitchen to continue what we started months ago.  We had quickly thrown up the kitchen crown molding where cabinets were going prior to their installation so that we wouldn’t be trying to work over and around the cabinets in the tight space.  Before getting frustrating and calling it quits yesterday, we extended more crown molding around both sides of the kitchen. ImageImage Crown molding makes a room look much nicer; that’s about all the good I can say about crown molding right now.

6. The Little Stuff Makes a Big Difference With 90% of the baseboards installed, we can start adding the toe strip.  The toe strip is the same stain and color as the floor (gunstock), and looks great against the white baseboards. Image Just putting it on this small section of wall between the kitchen and the living room and wrapping that corner gave it such a finished feel.  When my dad proposed a toe strip months ago, my response was something along the lines of, “I don’t care. Do whatever you want.”  Seeing it in place, I can’t believe how much having this transition from floor to baseboard dresses things up.  It just goes to show why attention to detail is so important.

7. There is a Reason People Cut Fingers Off with Saws While cutting crown molding yesterday, there was a mistake made by an unidentified party who shall remain nameless…. but it wasn’t me. He forgot to flip the saw fencing out of the way when cutting at an angle, and the result was screeching metal, shouts of profanity, a damaged saw fence, and a ruined $80 blade that was in the package just 24 hours before. ImageSeeing how the saw cut through this thick piece of metal like it was paper was a good reminder of why it’s important to be safe and careful when using machinery like this.  Don’t drink and saw, kids.  (Disclaimer: No, he was not drinking at the time.  Just distracted).

8.  This 13 Month (and Counting) Project Hasn’t Taken Away My Passion It’s my favorite time of year: MULCH TIME.  If you’ve been with the blog since the beginning, you would have seen the entry about how much I love laying mulch.  Most people dread this task, but not me; I think about it all year.  With the plants starting to come in, I will probably do it in the next week or two, and I cannot wait.  Soon, this yard will look a hell of a lot better… Image

9. Sometimes I Forget How Close I Really Am

Finishing the wood floors meant that the piles of boxes, extra flooring, tools, etc. that came with it can LEAVE.  This stuff had been filling the front bedroom for the last couple months.  After clearing it out on Saturday, this was what remained.

front bedroom clean

Sure a nice alternative to what was there a week ago.  It’s easy to forget that beneath the cardboard, the drop clothes, the bins, and the tools are rooms that are 99% finished (bedroom needs only a toe strip to be 100%).  We are close.  I have felt that way many times, and watch my deadlines and hopeful move in dates pass, but we are close.  We have entered that last phase where all the remains to be done is woodwork, paint touchups, and other minor details.