Brain explosions

Have you ever walked into an open house and thought about all of the things you’d change? It’s fun. Maybe you said to yourself, “Well…I really wish the cabinets were a little less country” or “Gosh! That tile around the fireplace will just have to go.” It’s fun to do these little assessments of houses and wonder what it might take to make it yours. For those of you who have bought houses, you probably had a good idea of what you were going change after you moved in. But truthfully, many people are still living with those cabinets and those hideous tiles for years and years until you warm to them more than you warm to the idea of renovating. “Those old carpets aren’t so bad after all!”

The one thing that you have probably never said when walking through an open house is, “Golly, that outlet really should have been five inches to the right!” You’ve probably also never said to yourself “Hmm, if the toilet was 6 inches to the left that would have rerouted the ENTIRE HVAC SYSTEM and changed the whole layout of the second floor.” Probably not, huh? Truth be told, WE (and by that I mean Joe) are agonizing over the placement of each and every outlet, fixture, appliance, piece of plumbing and even in some cases… the walls.

Instead of trying to write about every little decision we have been pondering for the past few weeks, here is just a small sample of the thought process for one very small and seemingly simple decision:

“We need a light switch.  What light fixture will be wired to which switch plate? How many switches should be on the plate? Should there be a switch for each light or should some turn on in unison? If so, which ones? Oh, and when you walk in the door will you want to switch on the light with your left hand or your right? If you’re right handed, does that mean they should all be on the right so you can switch with your good hand…or are you talking on the phone with your good hand or holding some packages in which case you really want that switch plate to the left for your free hand. Yes, sir we want that thing on the left. Wait, what? We are we putting a bookcase there? Put it back on the right. “

Meanwhile, the electrician wants to know if that particular light is going to be a recessed light, a drop down pendant, have a fan option, a sconce, track lighting….or hey have you thought about cable lighting? What’s cable lighting? And just when you think the light bulb in your head just exploded the architect chimes in with, “Well, what you really want is two levels of lighting…” and everything starts to fade away like murky water….or is that just the natural ambiance of an unfinished attic?

[note from Joe:  Amy is not exaggerating.  Besides the kitchen, our downstairs lighting is pretty straight forward.  The upstairs is a different story.  We have crazy angles, a wide variety of ceiling heights, and except for the master bedroom there are NO flat ceilings.]

And while you’re imagining this scenario go ahead and just add a toddler jumping up and down at your feet (hoping she doesn’t fall through the floorboards) reaching up saying, “Hold me Mommy! Hold me!”

Insert explosion sound here…and if possible, fire and debris

So…. anyways…. that is why we haven’t been blogging a lot lately. It’s hard to take good pictures of us standing around debating the location of every minor detail of our future lives….down to the inch.

Marking switch plates and counter heights
Marking switch plates and counter heights

I will say that the most satisfactory part of these decisions have been marking the places where stuff will go. When your house is like our house, it’s no big deal to go around with neon orange spray paint making notes for your electrician, plumber, and hvac guy.  It also happens to go really well with the boarded up motif we have going on right now. If you drive by and think someone vandalized our house, don’t sweat it. We did that handy work ourselves.


Marking exterior light fixtures
Marking exterior light fixtures


I also left little notes for the electrician. There is a card taped up in each room. If you are an electrician and you are reading this right now I’m not sure if you will tell me that we are very prepared and responsible clients or just plain idiots. At this point, I don’t care. It’s more for my sanity than yours. Like my little key at the bottom? Cute, huh?

Notes for each room
Notes for each room
Notes left for electrician
Notes left for electrician

We also have been negotiating inches in the kitchen. Since our house didn’t come with a plan and wasn’t designed by a modern builder with, say, cabinets in mind, we have to make sure that the placement of everything works. For instance, our future dishwasher door shouldn’t fight with the angled opening on the doors to a fridge, the path of traffic, or the legs of someone washing dishes. There are all sorts of scenarios to run through. That is all before even thinking about the kind of cabinets, counter tops, light fixtures and yes, the location and number of outlets and light switches the kitchen will inhabit. After months of agonizing over these things, we finally spray painted in the kitchen. Honestly, we’re still not sure it’s right.

[note from Joe:  I am REALLY nervous about this]

This is where the fridge will go....  we think.
This is where the fridge will go…. we think.

This week we need to pick out our sinks for the two bathrooms so our plumber can get everything set up correctly. Last week we purchased our first NEW item for the house- a bathtub for the upstairs bathroom. That was the easiest decision since we bought the house!

Lucy testing out the new tub


Downstairs we will be refinishing our claw foot tub which means we will try to stay in the realm of all things vintage for that bathroom. We think we’ve found an antique reclaimed sink that we like and we are in the market for an old toilet too. We’ll elaborate on those items later.

Sidenote:  Contractors and architects REFUSE to use the word toilet.  Acceptable words include commode, water closet, seat, and when referring to the location – hole.  It has gotten to the point where we feel like we are saying a forbidden word if we say toilet in front of other people.

As if all these decisions weren’t enough, we also need to submit paperwork for permission to add a few 2nd floor windows to our historical house and find historically accurate windows…  which reminds me, we need to go ahead and make up our mind about the exterior house colors so we can paint the outside of the newly rehabbed windows before reinstalling them.  We also need to find two stained glass windows that need replacing, think about insulating, remove the asbestos siding from the gables, find someone to eventually drywall and get another stair case built so that we can demo the old one.

[note from Joe:  Of course, we go back to work (real work, not house work) on Friday]

Also in the works, and probably one for a completely separate post, is the removal of asbestos laden, mastic tar, hoof glue adhered (yes, as in horse hoof) linoleum flooring around the perimeter of EVERY downstairs room. YAY! Here’s a sneak peak of the fun.


removing linoleum from our hardwood floors
removing linoleum from our hardwood floors


Eventually, these will be beautiful original Victorian floors…eventually…I hope.

Despite the seemingly never ending list of things to do, we ARE on the verge of major progress…  The electrician will start any day now (he was supposed to start last week), the HVAC removal and replacement should start this week, and we have plumbing that is starting to appear!

Plumbing for our 2nd floor bathroom
Plumbing for our 2nd floor bathroom


Plumbing for washer!
Plumbing for washer!

Meanwhile, when we aren’t researching every house topic imaginable, you might find us wandering deliriously around places like Doc’s Salvage or Tim and Julies “Another Fine Mess” murmuring about the ease of rust removal on cast iron sinks and measuring items by hand lengths.

[Joe can be found standing and staring aimlessly paralyzed with indecision]


Previous Post:  Window Rehab – Part 2

Next Post: Work continues without us








7 Comments Add yours

  1. Aunt Janet says:

    OH MY you both are amazing to take this challenge on….but, the effects of your decision making will make this undoubtedly YOUR HOME….YOUR HOME! Keep up the good work….I loved seeing little Ms. Lucy in the new bathtub, dreaming of the day she will have water and bath toys and splashing happily in that tub. Love and Hugs to you both (Joe & Amy) I love your documentation of renovating your home to be. Hugs and Love!!!


  2. Marty Miles says:

    I really loved this post!


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