Work continues without us

Week 20 – Joe

School started a couple of weeks ago and that means the type of work we are doing on the house has completely changed.  Progress is still moving forward and the house is changing every week, but it is because we are now in the stage of the renovation that requires us to pay people to work.  After being the only people working on the house for months, it strikes us as strange to have work happening when we are not even there!  The carpenter, plumbers, and hvac crew have all been in and out of the house on almost a daily basis.  The dollar amount for MEP (fancy acronym we learned from our architect for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) seems like a lot when you are thinking about it ahead of time, but now it seems like a steal.  I think this for two reasons.  Number 1 – Once you have actually put in hard work on your house you appreciate the value of someone else doing the work so much more.  Number 2 – It seems almost like magic that these large items on our checklist are actually becoming a reality.  I mean, our uninhabitable house will soon having a functioning brand new hvac system, running water, and electricity!!!  Someday, in the very near future, we will be able to go to the bathroom in this house!  How can you put a price tag on that?  (I hope none of our subcontractors are reading this)  In addition, we are also realizing that some things are relatively fun to pay for (like framing walls) and some things will not be so much fun (like insulation).

Here is the latest on our progress:

Our carpenter continues to rescue us whenever something needs to be moved or added.  He has been great to work with and is always able to fit in an hour or two out of his already busy schedule.  Just this week he framed out a wall for the new furnace room upstairs so that the hvac guys can rough in the air return. We also realized (after the framing was done), that the door in Aiden’s room would swing against one of the only flat wall spaces and would take up valuable dresser or shelf space.  Soooo…  we asked him to rebuild that wall for a pocket door.  [Edit from Amy: I tried to convince Joe that Aiden needed a false bookcase door, but my idea was deemed unrealistic.] It also makes sense because it will mirror the bathroom door, which is also a pocket door.  The carpenter also finished framing out the opening for the new stair case.

The view from what will be the bottom of the new stairs.  That is a long way up!
The view from what will be the bottom of the new stairs. That is a long way up!

The hvac guys finished roughing in everything this week.  It probably doesn’t seem exciting to anyone else, but it does to us!  We debated several different locations for the upstairs furnace.  As you would expect, there were pros and cons to all of them.  Most of the options required exposed spiral duct work.  We certainly weren’t opposed to that idea and in some ways we thought it would look cool, but in the end we didn’t want anything to block the view of our tall cathedral ceiling in the common area.  We decided to locate the furnace in an unused space behind the master bedroom.  The down side of this is that we have to build a bulkhead on the wall of the stair landing.  We think it is high enough that it won’t detract from the aesthetic of that area.

The "furnace room" is located in an unused space behind the master bedroom.
The “furnace room” is located in an unused space behind the master bedroom.

It also means that the duct work runs straight through the bathroom.  We don’t mind.  In fact, it will provide a nice space to build out a shelf or even a bench along the wall and in front of the bathroom window.

duct work in the upstairs bathroom
duct work in the upstairs bathroom

The duct work then wraps around behind the laundry area to get to Lucy’s room.

Laundry area with duct work to Lucy's room
Laundry area with duct work to Lucy’s room


The air for Aiden’s room and the master bedroom run in the floor between the joists.

duct work and plumbing in the floor joists
duct work and plumbing in the floor joists

We ended up with two completely separate hvac systems.  This will mean that the upstairs area has it’s own thermostat and dedicated AC and furnace.  Yes, it is more expensive but it accomplishes two important goals.  1.  It provides a well regulated temperature to an area that was never really intended to be a living space.  Living in an old attic space with only one AC unit would otherwise have meant living with A LOT of heat in the sleeping areas and extra money to keep that area cool for half the year.  2. It means we didn’t have to tear up walls downstairs to accommodate duct work to the 2nd floor.  The one major issue we have had with the hvac has revolved around miscommunication…  more on that in a later post.  The hvac crew will be back again after we drywall to do the finish work.

The plumbing is also in the process of being installed.  All the original galvanized steel has been removed and there has been damage to plaster in only a couple small areas as they work to find pathways from the 2nd floor to the basement. [Edit from Amy: Since plaster repair is a project I have adopted I beg  to differ on the phrase “a couple small areas.”]

Necessary damage...  I'm sure there will be more.
Necessary damage… I’m sure there will be more.

Everyone always asks if we have run into anything that we didn’t expect.  Some huge unforeseen mess that would cause an unexpected expense.  We recently thought we had finally run into one of those cases.  We went through a couple days of thinking we might need to replace the main sewer line to the street, but the plumbers successfully cleared it out, tested the sewer line with a water hose from our neighbor this morning, and decided verything looks good!  There are some decisions that have to be made now about bathroom stuff so that the plumbers can rough in everything for our future sinks, tubs, etc.  We finally decided on a sink for the upstairs bathroom.  We are very excited about this sink!  (Actually we like almost everything about this bathroom)

The sink we are ordering for the upstairs bathroom
The sink we are ordering for the upstairs bathroom

We still have not heard back from our electrician regarding a written agreement of services despite the fact he said he could start three weeks ago.  It’s okay.  It’s actually a good thing.  We are still having trouble making lighting decisions for the upstairs cathedral ceilings.  Not only do we still need to decide where those fixtures will go, but we have to decide between cable lighting, pendant lighting, recessed lights, track lights….

Work still continues on the window rehab.  I can only get about an hour each night (if I’m very lucky) to work on the windows.  To make this a little easier I moved the whole window restoration project to the basement of our current house.  I am done with the toxic lead paint, so there really is no need to keep that project at the other house.  All the kitchen windows are done and waiting to be painted (once we figure out those colors). The windows I am working on now were never painted on the interior side so I am just stripping and sanding those down in preparation to stain and finish them.

Here is a before and after sequence of these windows:




I enjoy working on these windows.  It allows me to fool myself into thinking I am actually a carpenter.  We need to do a lot more research on staining and finishing…  Plus we need to decide what stain we want to use.  We figure we will eventually refinish all the woodwork downstairs (that is an overwhelming thought) so we need to figure out stain color for everything so at least it all matches.

I did get the sashes back that needed to be repaired or replaced.  Here is what a brand new window looks like:

Made to the exact specs of the original window
Made to the exact specs of the original window

I recently finished the two sashes from a window in the master bedroom.  This window was missing one pane, but the other sash did retain the old glass.  I discovered that one of the pieces of old glass that was in our “glass graveyard” was only missing a corner and that the smaller pane needed for the master bedroom window could come out of that larger window pane.  I made a similar discovery for a sash in the dining room that had a crack in the corner and would need replacing.   I felt like I had outsmarted the antique window Gods.  I took the panes of glass to a glass place and they said it would be no big deal to cut that old glass to the dimensions that I needed.  As I was waiting for the glass guy to cut one of the panes I heard a very distinct and disheartening shattering sound followed by a “whoah” from the glass “expert.” He eventually come out and explained that the glass did not survive the procedure because of a slight curvature.  He didn’t notice beforehand and didn’t take the extra care to make sure that the downward pressure on the glass didn’t break it.  I happened to see the handwritten sign behind the counter letting me know that they were not responsible for glass brought in by a customer.  I am sure I looked seriously bummed and the glass guy obviously felt really bad.  It was just a sad scene altogether.  The glass guy gave me a new pane of glass (for free) and that was that.  I know it’s not a big deal when you consider the scale of our project, but I feel like I will always look out that window and remember this guy breaking my 100 year old glass.  I’ll just add it to the list of faults and back stories that I will know about this house, but no one else will care about or ever notice.  [Edit from Amy: I care.]

To end on a good note – We are feeling pretty positive about how everything is progressing right now.  Not only were we relieved to find out that we weren’t going to have to deal with the hassle and expense of replacing a sewer line, but our friend (and Cottage Home neighbor) agreed to build our new stair case for us!  On top of that, we unearthed a cool discovery underneath some asbestos siding.

More on that project coming soon…


Read our previous post here:  Brain Explosions

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Angie Wright says:

    We just moved downtown in a home that was built in 1888 and was completely refurbished. We absolutely love our home and living downtown! This is so cool to watch the progression of your home and can’t wait to see the finished product. It amazes me the undertaking you and your wife have committed to, but it will be so worth it when you have a beautiful home to enjoy that truly feels like your own! Good luck!!


  2. Aunt Janet says:

    First I want to say I have much respect for Amy and you Joe to restore your new/old home to be. I have been watching a show on TV about Refurbishing old old homes….and I think of you and wish you could watch this show. Actually there are two shows about people that are restoring old homes. They talk about the old old glass ….. and I have watched one show which is about a young single Mother/woman that restores old homes. She said she never paints over wood that has been stained….this weekend she sanded and got ready to paint old doors….doors that already had been painted…it was interesting to watch her sand and then feel the doors. Hardware for those doors were found at special hardware stores or stores of Days Gone Past Stores. I will look up those two TV shows and let you know the information to what channel their on. I know you do not watch TV….but, these two shows sure would give you some grand ideas. Not that you don’t already have your grand ideas. LOL Not sure if you know who Hall & Oakes the singers are…..Well Hall buys up old old vintage house…and puts them back closely to their original being…even the hinges on doors and latches or doorknobs. I LOVE THAT SHOW. Okay I am rambling. Great seeing all the new things going on in your NEW / OLD HOUSE TO BE. I love the upstairs sink and the walls in that picture are great. That sink is a must for Aiden and Lucy when they both are in school. LOL AND both Joe and You Amy will benefit from that sink…LOVE IT!. Okay enough said….love that you have the ducking in …for the AC and Heat. Keep working on your windows Amy….you are a carpenter. LOL Hugs and Love, Aunt Janet


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