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.








Too Tired for a Unique Title

It’s currently 9:11 PM, and I have already been asleep tonight.  I got in bed immediately after dinner, while it was still light out, and dozed off.  My current condition is a result of substantial hours I have put in over the last week.  

I was a man on a mission this week; I was determined that by the end of this weekend, the living room would be painted, and the floor would be started.  My parents both cautioned me to not get ahead of myself, but I wanted the drywalling, sanding, painting process entirely behind us.  As of now, I can say: mission accomplished.  I’m sore, and I’m starting the work week in a tired state, but the goal was reached.

On Monday night, I didn’t work at the house… but I did get to meet John Calipari at his book signing thanks to my Uncle Tim and Aunt Jenny.  


On Tuesday night, I got the walls sanded down (from the skimming we did last weekend) and wiped them down with a mop to get them ready to be painted. 



On Wednesday night, I rolled a first coat of white on the living room ceiling.  This actually took me an embarrassingly long amount of time, because the roller I started out with was leaving stray fibers all throughout the paint, so I spent significant time picking them out and redoing spots.  

On Thursday night, my brother came to help again, and we put a second coat of white on the ceiling and a first coat of color on the walls. 

The beginning of painting the walls gave me some serious anxiety. Throughout this process, the paint color in this room has actually been the subject of some controversy.  As anyone who comes into my house will be able to tell, I am a big fan of greys- as shown by the bathroom and now the living room.  I knew from day one that I wanted the living room to be grey…. but I was picturing a dark grey.  In my mind, I was picturing a cozy, dark room where cold winter days would be spent on the couch.  Thus, the paint color that I originally picked out for the living room was called “Zinc” by Martha Stewart.  This is the most accurate google image for the color (http://7thhouseontheleft.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/goffice11.jpg).  

I know… you’re thinking, “Whoa, that’s really dark.”  Erica agrees.  She walked in the weekend I picked out paint colors and painted some samples on the walls and, without a moment’s hesitation,  blurted out, “Umm yeah, I HATE that color.”  This was pretty bold coming from a woman who generally refrains from confrontation or expressing negativity regarding my decisions.  She envisioned a living room that was warm and inviting and full of sunlight and energy.  This paint color debate is, in reality, a reflection of our personalities… Erica wanted something full of energy, and I wanted something that was conducive to lounging.  In the end, I caved on this issue.  To anyone who is shocked, yes, occasionally I do just throw in the towel instead of standing my ground.  She was considerate enough to stick with grey since that was my vision all along and picked out something many shades later on the same spectrum.  Even though I let her win this one, I still proceeded to bitch for the next four or five months and told anyone who was willing to listen about how evil she was for vetoing the paint color I loved and making me go with a different one.  On Thursday night, as Casey and I were rolling the paint onto the first wall, I came to a realization…. brace yourself….

I was completely and 100% wrong.  

People often disagree with me when I claim this, but I am not the least bit ashamed to admit I’m wrong when I believe that I am…. how often I believe that is a different issue.  Nevertheless, when it came to the living room paint color, I was wrong; plain and simple.  

Watching the room go from neutral colors with an overall white covering of drywall mud was honestly a little startling.  



As the  paint was drying, I was immediately concerned that even this lighter version of grey was a mistake; that it was too dark for this room.  The color I had picked out originally would have been a complete disaster, and I’m so glad Erica stood her ground on it.  After the first coat dried and I got to see what the final color would be, I felt better about the grey; it wasn’t as dark as it looked when it was rolling on.  After the second coat on Saturday morning, I was completely happy with the color.





With the painting complete, we had reached a serious milestone: the “messy” portion of the project is over.  No more drywall dust.  No more sanding.  No more painting, except woodwork and small touchups.  Without having to worry about carrying construction dust, dirt, and paint into the “finished” portions of the house, there was no more need for the cardboard paths that have been covering the kitchen and hallway for the last few months.  



I had almost forgotten what the floors looked like underneath all the cardboard and drop-cloths.  With the living room painted, my dad was able to do his trim work around the bay window:


I feel like the addition of the trim makes the window standout in the grey wall and helps make it more of a focal paint, as was the goal in removing the awnings.  

He also trimmed around the entrance to the kitchen. Before and after:




I’m still always impressed what an effect a little bit of white woodwork can have on a space. 

With the living room painted, I started on the floor today with the goal of reaching the fireplace.  






Just for the sake of my own satisfaction, I calculated it out, and I am 33% finished…. hope to be 100% within a week.  When the floor is finished and the living room is officially a room, as opposed to a construction zone, the significant work will be behind us, and the whole house will have the “home” feel that the other rooms have started to have.  Most importantly, the fact that I don’t have to do any more drywall-related activities until I take on the basement project makes me want to either drink beer, cry tears of joy, or some combination of both.  

Other more minor, yet still important progress from this week…

The kitchen sink is in:


The shower fixtures are in:




Back bedroom crown molding is hung:





The ceiling fan that was originally in the kitchen has been cleaned and re-installed in the back bedroom with new, less frilly globes:



The bathroom and bedroom doors have been painted and rehung:




My Aunt Diane has graciously volunteered to make the cushion for the window seat, so she and my mom went out to purchase the fabric yesterday:



The toe strip in the hall closet was installed:



The installation of the toe strip isn’t much to look at it.  However, this four feet of wood carries some significance with it… 



In the entire house…. the hall closet is the first project that is 100% complete.  At first, this felt a little underwhelming, but progress is progress, and here it is: the first part of the house that is completely finished.  I’m sure you’re completely blown away by this closet.  

Everything on here has taken place in the last week and is the result of many hours of work…. which is the reason for my exhausted state at the moment.  Aside from the progress with the living room paint and floor, the most exciting portion of the weekend was a visit from my Uncle Kelly to plan the bookcases that he’s going to build to go around my fireplace.  

Exciting milestones on the horizon, but for now… BED. 

Almost to the Home Stretch

Between Easter Sunday and the second coming of the Black Plague that my parents have been fighting for the last three weeks (knocking on every piece of wood around me that I have avoided it), the progress last weekend might seem minimal at first glance.  Despite his fever, aches, and dizziness, my dad reported for work and still managed to put in a full day, even if less energetic than normal.

On Saturday morning, I was one of the first people in Home Depot and left soon after with a hanging rod for the hall closet.  The hall closet is now 99% complete, needing only a toe strip around the base board.

ImageI never expected this closet to be complex or difficult, but I must say, I also didn’t expect its transformation to take a total of about three hours. Not a bad “wasting time” task…

The most significant progress we made this past weekend was getting the entire living room skimmed with drywall compound, due to a much-appreciated visit from my brother.




These walls were great shape compared to the kitchen and front bedroom.  The kitchen took three coats, and I believe that the front bedroom may have taken four.  After a single coat, these walls were good to go.  I plan to go sand them as soon as I’m done with this post, so that I will be freed up to paint another night this week.  The sooner we paint, the sooner we lay floor, and the sooner we lay floor, the sooner that the major work stage comes to an end.  The living room will be a different place in a 7-10 days, and I can’t wait to be at that point.

While Casey and I were drywalling, my dad painted the top of the window seat in the back bedroom and installed door hardware for the window seat and closets.


Not bad looking for approximately $65 (adding in a few for the door handles).


I’ve said it many times, and I’m sure I’ll say it many more; I couldn’t be happier with how what was once a stack of produce boxes from the Greyhound kitchen turned out.

In the late afternoon hours on Saturday, some great progress was made that wouldn’t have been possible without the cheapest laborer of all: my grandpa…. and by cheapest, I mean that his pay is one or two (but never more than two) of these:http://eatablesnpotables.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/dscn2978.jpg.   He has been a huge help in this project, not just with his frequent visits and inspections, but with the painting of woodwork.  He will probably be quick to trivialize it and comment on how little time it takes him, but the fact of the matter is that it is a huge relief to come home after work to painted baseboards and crown molding that is ready for us to install on the weekends, instead of taking the time to paint it ourselves and wait for it to dry.  Last week, we got a painting station set up for him:


After two weekday visits from my grandpa, all the crown molding was painted and ready to be hung, so that is what we did during my dad’s afternoon rally on Saturday, beginning with the back bedroom.

Image  Image

ImageThat’s all for now… time to sand some walls.

Weeknight Baby Steps

The morning after the National Championship, I told my dad that my attention was now 100% focused on the house, because I’m ready to get this done… I wasn’t kidding.  I have been over there each night this week after work, and while what I’m accomplishing might be small, petty stuff, it frees up the weekends for more significant progress.

At night this week, I cleaned cold air returns and spray painted them white, sanded the living room walls, began patching the holes that my uncle had to cut in the fireplace wall to run the cable, and pulled the staples from the floor in the pantry.  While this is decent progress for weeknights, none of it is particularly picture worthy.

The only picture-worthy accomplishment I had this week was the hallway closet.  If you recall, this was a storage closet originally, which was much more of a necessity before the bathroom had its own cabinet.  I couldn’t reconcile with having no coat closet in the house, because I know my coats would be strewn everywhere… let’s be honest, they probably will be anyway, but the coat closet will be appealing to future buyers who are better at putting their coats away than I am.  Thus began the process of converting the storage closet into a coat closet.

I don’t believe I bothered to take any pictures of the inside of the closet as it was originally which, in retrospect, is unfortunate, but probably seemed like a strange thing to take pictures of at the time.  That closet had four shelves, a carpeted floor, and was a very, very dirty color of beige / white.  I started by pulling out the carpet and removing 3 of the 4 shelves (leaving the top one).


Next, I had to patch the places where the removed shelves had been.


After sanding off the patches, I rolled on a much-needed coat of fresh, white paint.  This, in itself, was something that probably could been a Tosh.0 web redemption (for those of you readers over 50, I apologize for the pop culture reference going over your head. Let’s just pretend I said ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos’).  The closet was just deep enough to require me to get in it to reach the back parts with the roller, and just narrow enough for avoiding the wet painted walls to be a challenge.  It was a pretty tight fit and relatively nerve-wracking, as I tried to paint one side without brushing up against the others with mere inches to spare. 

One coat of paint made all the difference in the world in making this closet look less nasty.  It’s hard to believe the whole house once looked so faded and dirty.  With the closet looking fresh, clean, and new, I continued with my newly-discovered flooring expertise and continued the floor from the hallway into the closet.

ImageAfter work today, I’m going to stop and by the hanging rod so that I can install it tonight or tomorrow, which will be the last step except adding a toe strip around the baseboards.  While a coat closet may not be a significant accomplishment, it was indeed an item checked off the list of remaining tasks, and it only took a matter of hours after work this week that would otherwise have been spent watching ‘Game of Thrones’ (the newest tv series to suck me in… blame Erica).

Ready for the weekend and further progress…













Topping off the window Seat

As long as we have been talking about the window seat, my dad has been tossing around this idea of using a wooden door as the top.  Like many other ideas, I didn’t understand it, but decided to let him run with it.  As always, it was the right decision.  Last weekend, my mom and brother found a solid wood door at the Covington Reuse Center for a grand price of….. $10.  After trimming the door to fit into the space, we set it in, and it looked immediately perfect- as though it had been there all along.

ImageThe window seat has turned out exactly as I pictured it.  It’s amazing what my dad has been able to do with some 2 x 4’s, a cabinet, a door, some trim, and some paint.  The window seat, as you see it below, is one of my favorite additions to the house.  The price for putting it in, including materials…


About $60.  No question that this was money well spent.














Bathroom Day

Moving forward on the living room walls requires me to get all the stuff out of there.  Many of these items were bathroom fixtures that had patiently waited months to come out of their boxes.  Saturday was that day.


The new vanity, sink, toilet, and mirror were installed; very exciting to finally see this room coming to life.  The result was everything I was striving for; a more modern, open, yellow-free bathroom.

Before and After:

Image      bathroom

The baseboards have since been fully installed, and the bathroom is very close to completion.  Looking forward to doing more this weekend, but for now….




April Progress Brings Possible May Move-In


What does the above picture have to do with my house?  Nothing.  Nothing at all… but the Cats have rewarded my year of hard work with the absolute most surprising and one of the most exciting March Madness’s of my lifetime.  On the eve of the Final Four, I must say how happy I am that the first March Madness I watched in my house was a great one, and the amount of screaming, jumping, cussing, and celebrating that has taken place in my basement in the last two weeks will never be forgotten.  So far, no noise complaints from the neighbors.  When I am not working at the house… I am refreshing http://www.kentuckysportsradio.com and watching this over and over on youtube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Pmdy8peVVU).  GO CATS!!!!

Things at the house are moving along; completion feels within reach as the list of large tasks dwindles, leaving only small ones.  Last Sunday- which was the day UK beat Michigan to go to the Final four (this is how I date things now)- my dad applied the grout to his tile work in the shower:



Also on the day that the Cats defeated Michigan, my dad and I kept moving on the floor in the back bedroom.


A few nights later, we went back and finished the rest of the room.  Nothing makes a room feel more complete than finishing laying the wood floor.  It instantly goes from “construction zone” to “needs finishing touches.


One night this week after work, I did my first bit of floor laying on my own with zero supervision from my dad- sadly, this made me feel more like a man, even if it was just the back bedroom closet.


Pushing forward, we painted the cabinet and doors for the window seat and reinstalled the doors.


The cabinet needs the finishing trim put around the edges and the top installed.  The left closet door will hopefully be painted by my mom this weekend.  Not much work stands between this part of the room and completion.  With the floor done, this room is so close to being finished, as most of what remains to be done is the adding of crown molding and baseboards.

As I told my dad last night, the back bedroom may be my favorite room in the house as far as how the vision came to life.  This is ironic considering it was so much less expensive and so much less work than other rooms, such as the kitchen, but this room turned out exactly as I pictured it my mind.  If you read the earlier post about me building the closets out of cardboard boxes, it has been nothing short of exciting to see them come to life.  My overall goal was to use this room to add built-in character to the house.  I couldn’t be much happier with the before and after effect of this portion of the project.

before and after

On a whim last night, I decided to take on the relatively minor project of converting the hall closet from a storage closet into a coat closet.  I cannot recall if I have posted any pictures of the closet as it was previously, but it may be too late for that now.  It original had four wooden shelves.  Last night, I out three of the shelves and the ledges that supported them, leaving only the top shelf which will stay.  I anticipate this will be a simple process of patching holes, painting, adding floor, and adding a cross bar.  We shall see.

photo12     photo11

Where are we at moving forward?  The kitchen is done except for woodwork.  The front bedroom is done except for woodwork.  The bathroom is done except for installing the fixtures, which should hopefully take place this weekend, as well as woodwork.  The back bedroom is done except for painting a door, putting a top on the window seat, and woodwork.  Are you noticing that we have a lot of woodwork to come in the next few weeks?  This brings my focus back to the last remaining room in the house to conquer: the living room.  At this point, the work is almost systematic.  Step 1 is the part I’m least enthused  about – bringing the drywall tools out of hibernation and repairing the walls.  Step 2 is something I’ve come to enjoy – laying the floor.  Step 3 will be adding the built-in bookshelves on both sides of the fireplace.  Step 4 will be painting. Step 5 will be the inevitable woodwork process.  That’s it.  Five clear steps, and the last significant room on the first floor will be finished.  Laying the floor should be quick and relatively simple.  Painting will take a matter of hours.  I have been assured that the book cases will be a one-weekend project.  What remains to be done is so very manageable…. I just have to get the drywall portion behind me, which hopefully I can bribe my brother into knocking out quickly.  To prepare for the return of the drywall dust, which proves to spread everywhere like a zombie apocalypse, we have blocked off the “finished” portion of the house with some engineering that would make Dexter proud (http://images.buddytv.com/articles/t10_dexter_508_1263.jpg).


As the attention turns there, these are the last “before” pictures you will see of the living room:




I look forward to bringing you in the after pictures in a few weeks (fingers crossed).  In the mean time………. GO CATS.


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.


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.


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.


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


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”.



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.


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.





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:





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.


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.


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).


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:


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


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.


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.


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:


 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.


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.


 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.


 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.





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.



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.


 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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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….