Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Remodeling Our Hut Part 33: New Year's Eve Retrospective

In a few hours, 2019 will be history, and what a year it was.  From garden conventions to record-breaking rainfall, house demolition and construction and the heart-breaking loss of Carl's father, 2019 was a rough one. 

I was trying to get a good before and after picture of the house, but because we have so many trees, it's hard to get the right perspective, especially with the contractor's trailer in the driveway.  

Looking through photos from 1978 and the initial construction of the hut, it's a little easier to see without all the trees in the way.
September 1978, right after we were married, brand-spanking-new Little Hut in the Alfalfa Field

 To (at roughly the same perspective) December 2019.

1978: Little Hut in the Snowbank
 My late father standing on our front lawn in the early 1980's.  To his left is a crabapple tree (long ago removed) we moved from his yard and to his right, though only a mere twig, is the birch tree, which is still standing.

Just before demolition began, June 2019:

November 2019
 December 30, 2019

 Incidentally, the 1978 photos were pictures I showed to prospective contractors when trying to explain what we wanted to accomplish with a remodel, and why all but one contractor said, "No, thank you, you'd be further ahead to tear it down and start over."

Yes, well, we didn't.  Hard to believe, though the remodel was expensive, to start from scratch would have cost twice as much.


Ah, summer of 2019, where did you go?  

Though we completely stopped caring for the garden in June, the one constant joy I could count on while wheeling loads of shingles and demolition debris to the dumpster was that my path was brightened by the serenity of the gardens.

I'd drop the wheelbarrow handles every now and then and take a breath of sweetly scented air along with pictures to remember that 2019 wasn't all about plaster dust, indecision, anxiety, work and five gallon pails full of rain water in the living room.


The flowers bloomed despite the chaos going on around them, and they consistently lifted my spirits.

Fall arrived when we weren't looking.

 So we bid farewell to 2019. 

We're not back in our hut yet, the remodel is still ongoing, but we are much closer to the finish than the beginning.  I was sitting upstairs in our house this afternoon, looking out the window at the sleeping garden under the snow, and though all around me, the house is still in a state of chaos and full of dust and we still have no doorknobs or running water,  I felt a great contentment.  

I'm glad we didn't listen to the contractors who said we should tear down the hut and start over.  We have no wish to move from here.  It's not perfect, but it's home.  

I enjoy people who love to travel and love to hear about their adventures.  I'm probably missing out on a lot in life by being a stick in the mud, but I am at peace on the farm I've never left. 

The following poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow sums up my feelings perfectly. 

Stay, stay at home, my heart and rest;
Home-keeping hearts are happiest,
For those who wander they know not where
Are full of trouble and full of care;
To stay at home is best.
Weary and homesick and distressed,
They wander east, they wander west,
And are baffled and beaten and blown about
By the winds of the wilderness of doubt;
To stay at home is best.
Then stay at home, my heart, and rest;
The bird is safest in its nest;
O'er all that flutter their wings and fly
A hawk is hovering in the sky;
To stay at home is best.


 It hopefully won't be too much longer before we're back in our nest.  

Truly, for me, to stay at home is best.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Remodeling Our Hut Part 32: Flooring, Cabinets and Trim

Here it is, Decenber 25th already.  I want to wish everyone a Very Merry Christmas!
Our 'tree' this year is a tomato cage wrapped in solar lights stuck in an urn by the chicken coop.  Fa la la la la.

For the first time in my life, I don't have anything done for the holidays, no tree, no baking, no gifts bought and very few cards sent out.  This silly remodel has taken on a life of it's own and taken us along with it.  

However, though I am not caught up on anything else around here I am bound and determined to get the remodeling saga up-to-date. This will be an extra-long one, but here goes.

So, let's see where we were on November 8, 2019.

 The weather was quite cold for early November and we'd had quite a few inches of snow.

 Despite the cold, the contractors were able to apply siding to the garage.

 They also had to finish up some trim on the back of the house.

The flooring contractors were scheduled to arrive in the next week.  The recommendation was to have all of the hardwood flooring brought back to our house as soon as possible so it could acclimate to the current temperature and humidity levels before it was installed.   Every morning I would load up the Buick with as much of the reclaimed hardwood flooring I could stuff in with me and head over to our house with it. 

   I'd been able to salvage a little over one hundred square feet from our living room that hadn't been ruined by the rain. We were lucky to locate enough new wood that matched the existing hardwood to use upstairs in the bedrooms and the gables.

 Some of the old wood is piled on top of the new wood in the picture above.

The contractors were waiting for the rest of the shake siding to be delivered for the west side of the house, so on a nasty, blustery November day they began staining and lacquering the new window components.


Breakfast nook

While the contractors were working on staining and lacquering the windows, I was working on tearing out the floors in the west upstairs bedroom.  
 Back when our house was built, if carpeting was going to installed for floor covering, the practice was to use particle board nailed down to the plywood subfloor.  Since we were going to install hardwood instead, the old particle board had to go.  

Ripping the particle board up was far worse than taking up the plywood flooring in the kitchen and hallway downstairs had been.  I used a big pry bar, and with a hammer, tapped it underneath the particle board, attempting to pry it loose from the plywood underneath.  The particle board would most times crumble like a giant graham cracker and remain nailed down wherever it didn't disintegrate.  

The builders saw me struggling with the floor and went and got their shingle remover from the tool trailer and ripped up a large section of the floor for me.  I really appreciated them tearing up as much as they had, because then all I had to do was pull the nails and haul the debris out to the dump trailer. 
 There was still some random furniture in the bedroom, so after I had one side of the room's floor removed, I shuffled all the furniture to the other side and started the process all over again.

 All three bedrooms had the same particle board flooring, so as soon as we were done with this bedroom, we had to start on the east bedroom next. 
 Later that night, Cody and Joel stopped in for a short visit and helped us haul all twenty-seven boxes of hardwood flooring and the reclaimed wood upstairs to the south gable. 

 The flooring installers were going to start with the main floor first, and the boxes would have been in their way.

Bright and early the next morning, Thursday, November 14, the flooring guys started laying new plywood for the main floor.  They sanded the joints of the old plywood floor to make them level first.

Over the weekend, we had some more snow, and Joel and Audrey came to visit us at Carl's parents' house where we are living.  

 Audrey is three years old and loves to shovel.  With her help, we had the sidewalk cleared off in no time.

Monday, November 18 and the new plywood overlayment for the floors was progressing nicely.  The dark gray patches are floor leveling compound.

 I told the floor guys that maybe we should simply seal the plywood because it was very pretty. 

 Tuesday, November 19, the luxury vinyl plank living room floor was installed.  We decided to go with the vinyl downstairs because it is more durable and a lot less worry than the hardwood had been.  Especially after the mess we'd had during the remodel, I need a floor I don't have to obsess over in the higher traffic areas.
 While the flooring crew was working downstairs, I was back upstairs trying to tear out the east bedroom particle board.  The living room floor looked very different from upstairs looking down.

 The flooring in the living room is Mannington 'Acacia'.

As soon as the living room was done, their next job was the dining room/study downstairs.
 We chose luxury vinyl tile from Armstrong Alterna Reserve, 'Copper Mountain' for the mudroom, dining, kitchen, study and bathrooms. 
 Carl hates repeats in patterns and the flooring contractor, Dean, was very good about taking out any that we didn't like and moving them elsewhere.  There were three repeats in a row in the picture above and Dean cheerfully moved them for us.
 By the end of the day on Tuesday, they were about half-done with the dining room/study/whatever we are going to use it for room.
 We had a substantial dip in the floor where the chimney used to be, so there was more leveling compound needed there.
 The floor has been in over a month now, and though it's mostly covered in sawdust at the moment, I do like it. 

 We finally started to feel like the house was coming back together.

While the flooring contractors were working on the main floor and I couldn't get into the house without bothering them,  I took advantage of a little warmer weather and did some outdoor work I'd neglected.  I hauled our urns up to the front porch and added some winter greenery from around the yard and my usual spray-painted hydrangea arrangements.

This will be the extent of my holiday decorations but they'll look ok until spring.  Being much more sheltered on the new front porch, the hydrangeas don't get flattened by snow which is nice.

With the flooring progressing rapidly downstairs, Carl and I had to get the particle board out of our downstairs master bedroom so they could install the luxury vinyl plank in there.
 We had to move our collection of antique file cabinets and our clothes out of the bedroom where they'd been all along.  The cabinets are now in the living room for the time-being. 
 Once again, that dang particle board proved to be just as pesky as to remove as the floors upstairs; hard to pry up and then disintegrating.  Carl made some wedges out of heavy plastic which helped to keep the floor up enough to jam the pry bar under.
 My back was aching and prying with the crowbars was making it much worse, so Carl said he would take over ripping the floor out.  To help any way I could, I brought in one of our smaller wheelbarrows and wheeled the old flooring out to the dumpster in the driveway. 
The stuff sure resembles crushed graham crackers, but I can attest it does not taste anything like them.

 Finally, by 11PM, we were done with the last of the rooms full of particle board.  

Ann came the next morning and helped me paint the bedroom which was much appreciated.  She always does her best to help whenever she can.  I am incredibly blessed to have her as a dear friend. 

Bedroom down to plywood floor again and walls painted.  Ready for the new flooring.
That same day, the new flooring was installed in the bedroom.

We used the same luxury vinyl plank as the living room, 'Acacia'.  This is a huge change for us after forty-one years of light blue carpeting.

By the end of the day on Friday, November 22, all of the downstairs flooring had been installed.  The tile wasn't grouted yet, so we had to be careful to step in the middle of each tile.
Note the toilet in the foyer; this way it's much more convenient than having to dash all the way to the bathroom when Nature calls. 

 The weather had warmed up enough for Carl to put the garage doors back on Saturday, November 23.  Most of the snow had melted again, too.  Joel came down with his tractor and the two of us graded the driveway out a little bit so it wasn't so bumpy. 

The sunset that night was glorious.

 Carl's next project was to start polishing the edges of the piece of granite we had bought from a Craigslist ad back in March.  We had no idea if we could bring the cut edges up to the smooth finish of the top or not, but we'd gotten a great deal on the slab and decided to give it a try.  The stone had been leaning on a wall in Joel and Abby's garage all this time, and moving it to the trailer and over to the shop to work on it was nerve-wracking and heavy work.

Ideally, granite should always be transported standing upright, but well, we ran out of time to make a stand for it, so Carl drove super-slowly with the load.  We were lucky.  Don't try this at home.  I ordered some special stone grinding pads for Carl and we had to wait until they were delivered.  In the meantime, the granite sat in the shop on the trailer.

 The contractors had been off on other jobs while the flooring was being installed, so Carl had a little time to put the garage doors back up without disrupting their ability to get through the garage itself.

I'm still not used to having an attached garage as we can't really open and close the doors very well, but when we finally have some doorknobs, I think I'll like it very much.
The mudroom and entrance to garage and backyard.
 Speaking of the garage and mudroom; there was a sizable open wall space next to the door leading into the garage.  The original remodeling plans had called for a bench with cubbies and coat hooks to be built.  

I wasn't too thrilled with that idea because in order to keep the area neat and tidy, we'd have to hang our coats up perfectly every time.  I know us, and neat, tidy and perfect are not descriptive adjectives I'd use regarding, well.....us.  Our gardening attire is not glamorous and there's no way it would look 'nice' hanging in plain view.   

Ever since the mudroom had been roughed in, I was wondering if maybe it would be too late to have one more closet built or at least something that would resemble one with doors, but I had plenty of other stuff to do to keep me busy, so I put it on the back burner.  

On November 30, we were in the big town to buy lights for the remodel and since we were nearby, we took an hour off to walk through an antique store just for fun.  There hasn't been a whole lot of fun going on this year, but we both love antique stores and we needed a break.  

We usually split up when we browse antique stores, especially when time is tight.  The store was closing in forty-five minutes, so we had to browse quickly.  I headed for a booth where I'd bought our antique Mission-style buffet from a year or so ago, but didn't see anything that we needed.

I was rounding the corner on my way out to find Carl when I saw something that stopped me in my tracks.

Something big and closet-like.  Wow, could this be it?  But it's so big, gosh, it's pushing seven feet tall.  Hmmmm, what would Carl think?  Is it really old?  Maybe it's a cheaply made new thing made to look old.  I needed to take a closer look. When I opened the door, I was happy to see a pole for clothes to hang from and hooks on the back wall.  It wasn't pristine, but it was really nice.

The store made the first announcement that they would be closing in fifteen minutes.  I quickly hunted Carl down and asked him to come with me to take a look at what I'd found.

When he rounded the corner with me and I pointed it out, he frowned. 

"That thing?  It's too big, look at how tall it is, that won't fit in our house.  Where do you want to put it?"

"In the mudroom, right next to the garage door!  It will be a free-standing closet.  Look at the dentil work (the dentil molding is the little block detail up near the cornice) and just look at the carvings of the tree leaves and berries.  I really like it," I said.  "There's a big drawer on the bottom, too, a good place to put gloves and mittens.  I know it's not pristine, it's got a few scratches, the mirror shows it's age, but for $350, there's no way we could build something as pretty."

In the picture above, you can see me taking a picture of the big box and Carl looking very worried.

"The store will be closing in five minutes," the intercom announced.

"Well, what do you think?  Should we buy it and pick it up in a few days?" I asked.

"I don't know, it's nice, but I still say it's too big.  We'd better go home and think it over," Carl said.  "If it's still here the next time we come, we'll buy it then if you still want it."

Since the store was closing, I ran my hand over the wardrobe's sleek oak side and sighed.  Oh, well.  It sure was pretty.  

We went home.  Later that night, when I should have been sleeping, I did some research online.  There was a patent number in the drawer and my search came up with the 'Harris Lebus' furniture company's patent for 'drawer construction resistant to warping '.  Looking up Harris Lebus led me down another path.  They began production in 1840 in England and grew to be one of the largest furniture manufacturers in the world. 
The next day, I measured the space in the mudroom again, yes, it would fit.   Wouldn't you know,  Carl and I needed to go to a big box store again for more supplies.   We took the trailer this time and went back to the antique store on December 2.  I held my breath as I rounded the corner, would it still be there?  

 Success!  It was there, and waiting for us.  Apparently no one else wanted a humongous cabinet.  Just me.  (Carl still wasn't really on board, either, but went along with my wild idea.)
 We both love Arts and Crafts furniture and the wardrobe had all the elements.  We were able to negotiate the price down to $300 and the cabinet was on the trailer and on it's way home with us.  We had to take it to our house despite the remodel not being done.  A gigantic box doesn't fit just anywhere, you know.

We called Joel ahead of time and he and Audrey met us at our house to help us unload it. 

 Push, Audrey!  This thing is heavy!

 I don't have a picture of the wardrobe in it's current position at the moment, but it fits perfectly in the mudroom and I use it every day to hang up my coat.  There is a newspaper glued to the mirror dating from 1906, so it is over one hundred years old.  No wonder there's a few scratches here and there.  I'm only sixty-one and I look a whole lot worse.

The next day, December 3, Carl took off work to be on hand for the hardwood installation upstairs.  He's picky and wanted to make sure the reclaimed wood and the new wood blended nicely.

 Carl had to go back to work on December 4, but he trusted the flooring contractor, Dean, to do a good job. 
 We put the newly purchased matching hardwood in the new gable rooms and the reclaimed hardwood in the bedrooms and closets.  They match quite well.

 I was at our house for awhile on Thursday, December 5, when I received a phone call from the trim shop, our trim for the house was ready to be delivered.  Our contractor asked us if we would be willing to sand and stain all of the boards for the trim in an effort to keep the price down a little bit.  We'd decided to install a lot more trim than originally agreed upon, and if we would pitch in with more sweat equity, it would be cheaper since we work for free. 

When the wood arrived, I took a look at the big truck it came on and he opened the doors I thought, 'Wow, he must have other deliveries to make, this can't all be ours.' 

Well, sad to say, it was all ours.  I had the owner stack the wood onto our trailer in Carl's dad's shop.  The wood had to share the space with the granite that Carl was polishing and wherever else we could cram it in.

 Who ordered all of this wood??  We did. What were we thinking?

Carl finished polishing the granite for the island countertop and with Joel's help, they managed to get it safely back to our house where it is currently leaning against the wall awaiting the island to arrive.

Carl and I rearranged all the wood in the shop with Joel's help and got ready to start sanding and staining.  We were using a lacquer stain which stinks to the high heavens, so a respirator was in order to deal with the fumes.  Don't I look elegant?  I couldn't smell the lacquer, though, and that was a good thing. 

 While we were working on the woodwork, the upstairs flooring was finished Thursday, December 6.

 The staining project took us days (and nights) on end to finish.  While we were doing the staining, the interior doors arrived and the contractors were busy installing them.

  Carl and I had to go to meeting in a city seventy-eight miles from home on Tuesday, December 10, for some estate work, and we didn't get home until mid-afternoon.  

When we arrived at the job site, the contractors said they could use some trim very soon.  Joel took pity on us after work and helped Carl sand wood while I kept staining.  We piled the wood on the truck in the garage as soon as it was dry so Bob and Phil could pick it up in the morning.

 The contractors decided to apply the lacquer coats in our garage.  Since it was very cold again, they used a kerosene torpedo heater and a box fan for ventilation.  I was very leery of the setup for their health and safety, but it worked.  

Ann came over on Wednesday, December 11 and helped me continue with the sanding and staining.  We couldn't talk to each other because of the masks we were wearing but we did get a lot done before noon when Ann had to leave to go to work.  

While we were working in the shop, over at our house, the cabinet maker had arrived to start installing the cupboards.  It was really a big change to see them in place when I stopped in to the job site after lunch.  

I checked on Phil and Bob who were busily lacquering in the garage and hurried back to the shop to keep staining.   

 When Carl arrived home from work, he went back to sanding while I kept on staining.

We were working away when Phil stopped in on his way home from our house. 

"I have some bad news...the stain on the trim is a lot lighter than the stain on the doors," Phil said.  "You may want to go take a look at it."

 Off we went to the house, and yes, Phil was right.  There was a big difference.  We felt sick about it, now what?  We didn't feel like removing the lacquer and stain from the trim that was done already as it was over half of the entire lot.  Phil came up with a solution to mix stain with the lacquer and overspray the trim once more with the colored lacquer and then give it a fourth clear coat.  Luckily, it worked. 
 We were relieved after a tense night of wondering how it would go.  In the following days, more trim arrived and we had our work cut out for us.

 I would keep looking over at Carl's pile of wood to see if it was going down much.  It wasn't the worst job in the world, but it was work.

Keep sanding, Carl, we have a lot to do.

Thursday, December 12, and the cabinet maker returned.

We have some doors and a new sink.

I continued on with the sanding and staining at the shop while the carpenters started putting up the trim at our house.

Tuesday, December 17, the crown molding trim arrived.  More sanding, more staining for the next two days for me on my own.
Thursday, December 19, and I was done staining so I went over and started puttying the nail holes in the trim.  I also glued returns on to the ends of the trim with Carl later on that night until nearly 9PM.

 When we got done that night, we piled all the glued boards on top of the trash can and went home for supper.  
December 20, and trim is progressing.  The cabinets are at a standstill because they are awaiting the Formica countertops to be done.

 We have trim lying around all over the place, some in the living room, the garage, upstairs, you name it.  And the sawdust to go with it.

We have a very tiny bathroom upstairs now, and in order to give it some light, Phil came up with the idea of putting one of our stained glass windows in the opening.  I brought it back to our house this week and had Carl hold it up in the window opening to see how it will fit.  
Saturday, December 21, Cody came over to start installing the crown moulding on the ceiling.  Phil was not crazy about doing crown moulding trim because it is very time-consuming.  Every corner needs careful measuring and mitering and the ends need to be coped by hand.  It's very involved.   Cody said he'd be willing to take on the job and I've been helping him when he needs a hand holding the trim in place.  He's doing a wonderful job.

He has our bedroom done already, but there's a lot more house to go. We're very lucky to have him take this job on, for like Carl, he works full-time.
So, finally, this brings the project up-to-date.  The pictures below are from Christmas Eve.  

Yes, it's a mess, but Bob vacuumed after I left in the morning and the house does look a bit better for Christmas.  We have run out of trim, though, and have to wait for more to be cut and delivered, hopefully on Friday of this week.  

It sounds like the next week will be a madhouse at the site; the cabinet maker is coming in with the countertops and island, the plumbers and heating and cooling contractors will be coming back, too to make final hookups.

Carl and I have been feverishly wracking our brains for a suitable wrought iron railing design for the house for the last two days.  We cannot move back in until a railing is installed, so this is a big deal.  I think we have a workable solution, as long as I can keep the silly flourishes out of it that I always want to add.   At the rate we're going, it will be another six months before we're done with the hut. 

Right now it's nearing 2AM on Christmas morning.  I'm not beating myself up for being unprepared for the holiday, there's just no time to do much of anything extra.  

I received a text from the electrician earlier tonight asking if our house will be open so he can hang some lights on Christmas Day.  

I texted back, "Sure, we'll be there." 

It seems strange to be working on the hut on Christmas Day, but it's ok.  This will be a Christmas to remember. 

Merry Christmas from our hut to yours!