Day 85

Since late July, we’ve had to be creative about cooking meals and doing laundry. I think we’ve done laundry at at least five different people’s houses and two different laundromats. When it came to food, Dave started out by trying to cook everything at home with a combination of toaster oven, microwave, and grill. That fell in popularity quickly (who wants to stand over a grill in Texas in August?). After that, we entered the world of batch cooking. I’ve since learned that this is a “thing”; families do this, preparing meals they can freeze and have available for months. We didn’t go that far. We would plan out two weeks worth of meals, make our bi-weekly trip to the grocery store, and head to a borrowed kitchen. Dave would then cook for three to four hours while I did laundry. It made for an exhausting Saturday or Sunday afternoon. That all changed last weekend. We didn’t exactly have the all-clear from the contractor to move into the kitchen, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in eight years at my current job it’s that it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission. So this happened:

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It’s a mess right now as we unpack everything, but I cannot describe to you the joy we’ve experienced having our kitchen back. I did laundry…in my own house! Dave has been cooking up a storm. Our very first meal was spaghetti with Italian sausage, homemade sauce, and a green salad. I know it’s nothing fancy or glamorous, but when your options for cooking are grill, microwave, toaster oven, or prepared ahead, pasta is mostly off limits. Tonight we had fish poached in court-bouillon with green beans. Green beans that weren’t cooked in a microwave or four days ago! I like food. This gets me excited! We also have our new kitchen table now, so no more crowding around the card table.

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The other benefit of having the new kitchen table is that Emaline has a place to play with play-doh or do some coloring. It was amazing this morning to be able to set her up with play-doh at the table and not have to tell her not to touch something every five minutes. Everyone was happy.

All in all, things are moving right along. The men have been working on refinishing the wood floors. We had this done when we first moved in, but between needing to patch some areas in Emaline’s old room where we shifted a wall and general construction wear and tear, it needed to be done again.

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Those boxes you see in the living room are the cork flooring for the front hall and family room. It arrived on Friday and will hopefully go in with all the other flooring this week. We also got all our plumbing fixtures in this past week.

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We’re missing the decorative pendants in the bathrooms, but they should also arrive this week.

Last image for now, the wallpaper went up in the front hall this week. We went with a textured wallcovering that would simulate the paneling that had been there. We liked the original paneling, but it was damaged and couldn’t be replaced. The wallcovering is an amazing match. I couldn’t get the texture to show up in an overall shot so I went with an extreme close-up.

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Watch for more posts in the coming weeks. It’s getting so close!

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Kitchen progress

And now a quick update on the kitchen. I’d do more of the house, but it’s the part I’m most excited about, and it’s 9:00 and the only room with working lights…

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This is the overall pic. They painted today, which you can read better if you look at the door and trim. The wall color is a pretty subtle French grey, and iPad phone struggles with subtle. The countertops are also mostly done. They’ve got some grommets to drill and some seams to clean up, but it’s been raining so that’s slowed them down. One of the things I’ve been evangelizing about is the seamless Corian sinks. They still need the joints cleaned up, but you can already see how slick they’re going to be. No hollow sounding metal sinks to scratch and dent, and no joint lines to get nasty. They’re not supposed to stain, so fingers crossed there…

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The tile guy started the backsplash today. We had to abandon the sheet glass backsplash for cost reasons, and we were able to cut the price almost in half by switching to the back painted glass tile. It’s not quite what I wanted, but I think you’ll agree, it’s going to look ok.

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Also visible in that shot are the floating shelves. These were no small feat. If I had it to do over again, I’ve got a design for a steel bracket that would attach to the studs and then get walled around, but I think these will still be ok.
Also on the docket for tonight is deciding what fabric we want for the banquette cushions. These are the final contenders:

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In my mind, the goal is to pick one that pulls the glass color in, has substantial visual impact since the rest of the kitchen is pretty subdued, and if it can somehow reference “midcentury” without being kitschy, that’d be great too. Vote for your favorite in the comments!

Day 70

This past week, we celebrated our four year house-iversary. And by celebrated, I mean we went out to dinner because the fumes in our house were too bad to stay here for dinner. But here’s what we have to show for those four years:

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Countertops have started showing up! This is the desk in the baby’s room. It’s initial function will be changing table. Millwork hardware also arrived. We ordered 126 of those lite round pulls. I miscounted; we’re short 10.

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Same knobs on the closet doors AND door hardware is here and going in.

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Dinette bench! We’re still debating cushion fabric, but those will come later. Also an awesome new Eames table base Dave found on eBay. It’s in need of polishing, but otherwise great!

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Hey, it’s a kitchen! The hood is up and shelves are in.

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Dining room millwork. There will be speakers built into this at some point.

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This is a small part of the custom entertainment center and shelving in the family room. There are some wall standards by Rakks that will hold 21 shelves on this wall. We have lots of books and records.

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Emmy’s room! Some carpet, paint, and finishing touches and we’re there!

Day 57

I write this post not to garner sympathy, not to get people to tell us to “hang in there” or “you can do it”. I’m sure it would be sincere, but it’s the last thing I want to hear right now. Well, maybe not the LAST thing. The last thing I want to hear right now is that the construction is going to take longer than expected, but I don’t think I need to worry about that. I digress. I write this post as advice, as a way for you to learn from my experiences. I may take this back later, but right now, on day 57 and five months pregnant, I would advise NOT ripping up your whole house and trying to inhabit it…with a two year old…while pregnant…during a very busy and tumultuous time at work. Take away any one of those factors and you stand a much better chance at maintaining your sanity, but with all of them? I might be checking into a mental institution soon. Like I said, maybe I’ll take this back when it’s all done. I know it’s going to be amazing and so much better than what we had. I am so grateful to the family and friends who have made this bearable by opening up their homes to us whenever we needed a place to sleep, eat, do laundry, or just hang out someplace that doesn’t look like this:

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This is our bedroom/living room, and yes, there is a banana and an avocado on our dresser. There’s a fly swatter for all the bugs that invariably get in over the course of the day with a dozen people coming in and out of the house. There are school pictures buried under there somewhere that were supposed to be returned to school last week, but no one can remember to grab them in the chaos each morning. There’s a folding chair on the right so I could sit near the window to get enough light to knit. I didn’t want to turn on the overhead light and disturb husband and child who were trying to rest on the bed. And there are my clothes hanging from the bed frame that doubles as a drying rack. This room is as full as Emaline’s room is sparse. So if you see me and think I look a little frazzled or maybe not quite put together, please remember this picture and don’t be too critical.

In summary, I would not suggest doing this. But, since we’re already down that path, here are some photos! This past week marked a milestone I was quite happy about: closet doors in our bedroom.

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The master bedroom/bath has been finished for over two years, but we never had closet doors. Granted, we still don’t have pulls, but we will eventually and, in the meantime, that’s what painter’s tape is for.

The rest of the house has been progressing, but in smaller, less noticeable ways. The crew has continued to work on the windows, with new glass now in 5 sets of windows with two more most likely slated to arrive this coming week. The cabinetry keeps moving forward. This is a shot of the kitchen in its current state:

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I can’t wait to get my sewing machine set up in that front window!

The crew worked all day Friday staining the cabinets. We have four rooms filled with drawers and doors, stained and waiting to be sealed.

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I imagine once the cabinets are done and out of the way, we’ll start to see more painting and some floor finishes going in. Four to six more weeks!

Day 43

I’ve started to compose a post in my head several times now about what it’s like to actually live in this construction zone, but I get overwhelmed by it or am distracted by needing to do dishes in the bathroom sink or figure out where we’re doing laundry that week. I like to think it would be a funny post, but I haven’t figured it all out yet so I’ll give you this post instead. Progress! We’re making progress! We’re starting to see color in the baby’s room:

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It makes it look a little less bleak in there. The crew has also made really good progress on the built in dresser in the closet:

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The hall bath is getting so close! The majority of the tile is in and grouted, most of the millwork is in, and the shower head and tub fill have been installed.

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The first bank of windows is scraped, primed, and re-glazed. They are gorgeous, and I can’t wait to see them with the final paint. The crew chose to start with the absolute most difficult bank of windows. This is the largest bank of windows in the house. Additionally, the only way to reach them from the exterior is via ladder over some not-so-heavenly bamboo, aka nandina. If we’re lucky, they killed some it with their ladders. However, the windows look great and we can’t wait to see the rest of them.
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The tile in the back bathroom is moving right along:

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Last, but not least, almost all the millwork for the kitchen showed up on Friday! I’m having a hard time convincing Emaline that she probably won’t be able to have her birthday party here since the house won’t be done. According to her, it looks like a kitchen now so we must be almost done. Here are a few shots:

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That crazy metal contraption in the corner cabinet will have wire baskets fitted into it and allows you to reach things way back in the corner. I doubt I’m doing it justice with that description so you’ll just have to wait and see.

We’re still without lights in most rooms so bear with us a little longer with the grainy pictures. I am optimistic that we’re about halfway through this process. Doug, the awesome contractor, says he’ll be done before Thanksgiving. So, another six to eight weeks? We’re on the downward slope now. Stay tuned!

Day 36

This week, Buzzfeed style:

1. Pink tile is awesome.

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2. Herringbone tile is even more awesome.

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3. Two coats of primer makes everything look better.

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4. Plywood makes nothing look better.

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In other news, when the GC is away, the cats will play. Our main man Doug was on a well deserved vacation this week, and we had lots of trouble with people not respecting the one room we actually have right now, not turning on the AC after they were done, and not cleaning up after themselves. Fortunately, Doug will be back this week, so I’m hopeful that things will be a little more easy. I’m also hopeful that Emaline can get back in her own room later this week. She’s a noisy sleeper, unlike her dad…

At any rate, it seems like a lot of things are in place now that would indicate we’re close to having some completed pieces here and there. They could paint a room this week; they could grout a bathroom; they could install some casework. Check back next week to find out which it was, and please, no wagering.

Day 30

The beginning of a remodel is all about big moves. Demo is big, building walls is big, hanging drywall is big, and taping and bedding are big. Now that we’re in the middle, things feel smaller- less excitement every day. But any progress is good progress, and I can see improvements every day. Last week the tile guy and the painter showed up. We really raved about our tile guy on the master bath remodel, but this new guy is ridiculous. He’s also doing the mitres on the corners, but the level of precision is even greater than last time. I was never happy with the window condition in the master, but he’s managed to make that work flawlessly this time. Just to complicate matters, our tile patterns are totally different in each room, and he’s clearly thinking them all the way through.

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Sorry about the graininess in the photos, but we’re still a way off from lights, although the guys were nice enough to hook some of them up in the kitchen and Emmy’s room. I’m particularly happy with the lights in the kitchen. Before, with all the cabinets and only 4 recessed lights, it was pretty dim, but no more.

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Emmy’s room also got lights for now, and the guys got all the casework in the closets so that the painter can paint them along with everything else. The painter hasn’t actually painted a lick yet, but has spent a week doing additional sanding and floating and cleaning up the flush base details. This is a good picture to also see the flush base and frame detail.

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The guys also got Emmy’s room cleaned up enough for her to sleep there again. Unfortunately, since that room is still being worked on, it’s really just the bare necessities in there- no toys, no clothes, no rug, no nothing. You can imagine the pangs of parental guilt every time I see this:

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That said, she’s in great spirits, and loves all the guys that come to work on her house, particularly Chase, the GC’s son who is a very tall, blonde college basketball player. She’s also decided that her room is going to be purple, so she “helped” us select a paint color for her room as well as all the paint colors for the house. This next week I’m hopeful to see tile finished, the first cabinet set in the hall bath, and primer start to go up. I wouldn’t be shocked to see the first bank of windows begin, but that’s probably just wishful thinking. No progress on furniture yet, but I’m hoping to do some design work on that this week.
I love getting questions and comments, so don’t hesitate to post any if you feel so inclined.

Day 20

Sorry for the delay in posts, but we took a week long vacation in beautiful Vancouver and Whistler, BC. August in Texas is brutal, and living in a construction zone is stressful, so getting a week away was the best thing that could’ve happened.
Right before we left, we packed Emmy’s room up and cleared it out so they could immediately demo out her room. That was a Friday, Monday was to be the electrical and plumbing inspection, Tuesday was the mechanical inspection, Wednesday a buffer day if needed, insulation on Thursday, and put up drywall in Emmy’s room on Friday, so we’d come home to a cool comfortable house and we could all sleep in our rooms. This plan both worked brilliantly and not at all.
We did pass all our inspections. And the house was nice and cool. And the insulation did get installed on Thursday.

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And they even got Emmy’s room rocked on Friday.

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But that’s not all. They also got the family room. This was the first time we’ve seen it with the original wall back in place.

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It’s a little long, but I think we’re going to be very happy with it in the end. They also did the living and dining room.

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In fact, they got the entire house drywalled and wanted to come back to do the first round of taping and bedding Saturday morning. However, we got home at 9:30 PM and they were no lights anywhere, the floor in Emmy’s room was too dirty to deal with, and our room was just dusty everywhere. Fortunately, our wonderful friends Rob and Cassie had graciously extended the offer to stay at their place for the night, so that’s what we did. The tape and bed guys came the next morning and got the first round done for the whole house.

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This is a picture of the living room. I occasionally have twinges of guilt about taking down all the wood paneling, but not when I see that. It was easily the darkest room in the house, but no more. Hey- how about a kitchen shot?

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It’s still a long way from being the dream kitchen, but at least you can see from one end to the other. There is so much great light in there- it just makes me more eager to get this thing finished.
They’re still hoping to get the second round of mudding done tomorrow with sanding on Tuesday. Anyone who’s ever been around sanded drywall dust knows we are likely to be miserable that night, but hopefully that’s the end of the worst of it. They’re on schedule to be done in three more months, most of which is painting, flooring, casework, and trim, and none of which is as miserable as demo or drywall sanding.
Hopefully this week, I can get a post in about the rest of the finishes in the house, as well as an update or two.

Day 8

Not too much to report right now, as progress is of the less photogenic kind. Demo is done for now and it’s now time to start putting things back. What little framing there was to be done started Monday. Emmy’s closet was framed and her bathroom wall was moved a scoach (sp?) to make room for a vanity, as opposed to the wall-mounted lav that was there before.

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She thinks its hilarious to shut the pocket door and “hide.”
After that they framed in the walls between the family room and the music room.

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As you can see in that picture, they’ve also got new subfloor in the music room as well. They were able to just pry the old one up, which was good as the old sheet vinyl that was in there was clearly not going to let go of the subfloor without a fight. Also of note are the double stud partitions. There is a 1″ air gap between the two to help minimize noise between the family room and the music room, so hopefully two people can be making noise at once with minimal impact on the other. Both sides are supposed to get filled with recycled denim batts and then both sides get two layers of drywall.
Also visible in the picture is Panda’s bathtub in its temporary location. Emmy’s was in the previous picture serving as desk pedestal. The plumber is here and moving the piping around in the kitchen. He will then move on to the bathrooms where he’ll set the bathtubs and the shower valves, both of which are required for inspection. Here’s the work he’s been doing in the kitchen, with a special appearance by rolley kitchen:

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In the foreground is the pony wall they had to build to house the plumbing for the sink. The fridge and washer and dryer are near their final locations and you can see the new wall boxes for them already set. Apparently we had a lot of rust in the drain pipes, so he’s really had to cut back and replace a lot.
Also visible in this picture are the electrical back boxes being set. The electrician has also been here all week, although a fair amount of his time has been devoted to getting ready for the new air conditioner and getting us new 200 amp service. When we had the new breaker box set a few years ago, they hooked us up with a 200 amp breaker box, but we never switched the service until now.
On the other side of the partition from the music room is the family room. We were afraid we’d have to pour a new topping slab in order to get rid of the slope of the old porch, but they were able to use sloping sleepers and glue and screw everything together and into the concrete. The floor in there used to be the squeakiest spot in the house, but it’s rock solid now. The wall on the left is where the built-in entertainment center will go. It needs redesigned, but more on that in a later post. Also of note: deck toilet!

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Finally, a few words about life in this filthy craphole. While our GC and his crew have done an admirable job trying to keep the mess down and keeping our lives livable in the house, it’s still a construction zone. We’ve had to introduce Asian rules about house shoes in the house that you take off before you come into one of the livable rooms. The halcyon days of the five-second rule are but a distant memory. Here was our “dining room” tonight:

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With the power out most of the day and all the wall insulation in a dumpster, we’ve come home to this two nights in a row:

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When we went to bed last night, it was about 84 degrees. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still think this is better than paying out $10,000 in rent and utilities to live someplace else during construction, but this is already a bigger challenge than I had expected, and I expected a lot.
I’d like to post about the rest of the materials in the house, dining table design, platform bed design, and the built-in entertainment center in the near future. But if there’s anything you’d like us to address or any questions you have, please feel free to post them in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!