Tuesday, May 10, 2022

'Helpers High' - Habitat for Humanity Women Build Day

Have you heard of a ‘helpers high’?  It’s a documented response our bodies have when we volunteer and help others. And it was clearly evident last weekend when a dozen women got together for our first Women Build day for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland. 

The day started when everyone arrived - most with little or no building experience. Our coaches/guides/experts for the day, Chad and Carson, gave us a quick orientation and overview.  (BTW - Chad likes working with all women teams - he said they always follow directions πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚)

Did you know that habitat homes are for people making less than 80% of the Area Median Income?  They have many applications and they go through a rigorous screening process that includes 3 qualifiers:  their need for affordable housing (this could mean their current housing is overcrowded, dilapidated or too expensive - just to name a few qualifiers), their ability to pay a low-interest mortgage, and their willingness to partner with Habitat of sweat equity.  What is that?  They agree to spend 250 volunteer hours helping work on their house and helping in the community to gain a better appreciation for the place they’ll be calling home.  What a great way to create a strong connection between the new homeowner, their home and their community!  

We were working on two neighboring homes. What sweet houses!!!  One is almost complete and the volunteers set out to do some final painting. Soon it will be home for a family from Rwanda with 3 little girls, who are very excited to be moving in soon. 

The final punch list is almost complete!  Move in Date is right around the corner!

The second home is for a single mom with two sons.  

We had 4 teams installing flooring (Luxury vinyl tile, a great choice for a family) throughout the home.

Most of the gals had never installed flooring - they had such fun learning some new skills!  

At the end of the day, we felt like we'd learned something new and made some great new friendships.  What a great way to spend the day!

Would you like to participate?  Here the link to sign up - Women Build Day.  Each participant is asked to do fund raising to contribute towards these wonderful homes.  Habitat has a great 'Go Fund Me' type of site to help with fund raising.  And there are some very cool incentives for raising more money!  One of the wonderful women on our Build Day raised over $1200!!!  So she will get all of the incentives listed in the $1,000 level below:

$250 = insulated tumbler

$500 = tumbler + 4 stemless wine glasses

$1,000 = tumbler + 4 stemless wine glasses + quarter zip sweatshirt

$1,500+ = tumbler + 4 stemless wine glasses + quarter zip sweatshirt + zippered tote bag 

Hope to see you at one of our upcoming Build days soon! 

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Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Design Details - the Living Area

We're moving right along at the split level - insulation inspection was last week and next is drywall!  And that means all the finishing touches we have planned can soon become a reality.  So what do we have planned?  Lots of things to make this house truly custom for its owners.

First - while yes, we removed the old fireplace that took up so much living space in the original house, we had planned a new gas fireplace in the addition space.  And not just a simple fireplace - but a feature wall with built in bookshelves, custom fireplace surround and mantle.

The inspiration for it came from a project we did a couple of years ago that my clients really liked.  

But instead of window seats, we want to add bookcases.  Here's a sketch of what we have in mind.

Of course we have a long way to go πŸ˜‚

The bookcases will be below the window (this is southern exposure, so the sliding glass door and this window bring in sunlight all day long).  We'll install a natural wood mantle (similar to the one in the inspiration photo ) and bookcase top to match.  They want their TV mounted above the fireplace, so we've gotten all the electrical work in place for that.  And we'll add vertical nickel-gap paneling above the mantle and in the back of the bookcase.  The vertical lines will help make the space seem taller.

Photo:  Kozy Heat 
The gas fireplace is the 'Beach' model and has driftwood and glass accents. 

But that's not all the custom work we have planned.  We'll also be building a banquette bench to create a breakfast nook along the kitchen wall.  With all the sunlight coming in the glass door, it's the perfect spot for a cup of coffee to get your day started.

And finally, we're planning to build a mud bench wall with basket storage and lots of room for coats and boots.  Similar to this one that we did in a previous project.

Can't wait until we can see it start to come together! 

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Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Exterior Update at the Split Level

Lots of details go into the planning on the front of a house.  The curb appeal is so important, we want to get it right!

Lighting Plan includes recessed lights and sconces - for safety and style

One of the first things we had to figure out was the lighting plan – because the wiring gets done far in advance of any finish work.  Working with the clients and our electrician, we came up with this design that includes recessed flood lights and accent lights.  It provides lighting on the front steps (for safety) as well as the garage entrance when you’re coming and going.

Figuring out the perfect spot for the light!

These accent lights provide additional illumination with that beach house flair!

At long last, the garage door arrived!!  Woo hoo, they are one of the biggest challenges in the supply chain these days, so we're thrilled it's here.  And this one is pretty and functional.  For example, the glass panels will provide some nice light in the garage.  But it's also super well insulated with an R-17 insulation value.  That makes a big difference since there is a bedroom above it. 

We'll also add some decorative hinges and handles when we get close to the finish line.  In the meantime.... I'll just stand here and watch it go up and down.... up and down πŸ˜‚ No more smashed knuckles getting the old one closed! 


With all of that done, we could start planning the finishes.  When you live a few houses up from the beach, you want to spend your days doing fun things – not worrying about maintenance around the house.  So, when it came time to pick finishes for the exterior, we wanted to keep it simple and worry free.


A gray shingled house is the quintessential Maine beach cottage, but the care and maintenance of wood shingles and trim wasn’t something the owners wanted to deal with.  So instead, we looked at some pretty amazing vinyl alternatives.   Note: this is not your grandmother’s 1960's vinyl siding.  This has all the color and texture variations that you would see in a weathered, wooden shingle.  But it installs easily and won’t require any maintenance.  


See how the grain is highlighted with color and texture variation?


And since all of our windows are trimmed out in PVC J-channel boards, the siding slips behind it so there aren’t any noticeable vinyl trim pieces.  It helps eliminate that ‘plastic house’ look that you often have with vinyl siding.


The guys got the front finished up – doesn’t it look fabulous?  Of course we need to add some front steps, but that's still on the to-do list. 

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Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Upstairs Bathroom Planning

Supply chain challenges are slowing us down a bit - but planning is still moving forward!  And one of the rooms that we're pretty excited about is the upstairs bathroom.

The inspiration for the bathroom was this vanity.  The glass top and bowl have a sea glass look that will provide a focal point for the bathroom. 

Photo:  Wayfair

For flooring selection -  well, when I posted this on social media, many of your weighed in with your vote for best flooring.  But we ultimately chose the least popular option (circled below).  It's speckled finish looks like sand, which compliments the beachy vibe the homeowners want and it coordinates beautifully with the flooring.


For the tub/shower, we'll use a feature strip of this beach glass tile, mixed in with a simple white subway tile.

And to give the room a bit more character, we'll be installing this wallpaper.  I love the undulating wave like patterns - the perfect background for a beach cottage bath!

We are admittedly months away from being able to install all these fun finishes, but it's nice to have all the planning complete! 

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Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Last of the Surprises???

In every project, we find something that makes us scratch our heads and say “how could they do that"?  Usually it’s some renovation done by a hapless homeowner many years ago.  But this one appears to have happened when the house was built.  And it resulted in a 'deja vu' moment as we saw yet another concrete truck pull up to the front of the house.

We hadn’t planned to make many updates to the garage, the owners just wanted the original walls removed to make it a serviceable space for a car.  But all that changed when we pulled up the old platform walkway and discovered the middle of the garage was bowl shaped – so any spills would pour into the basement!!!  I know things were different in the 1940’s, but even then you wouldn’t want things like gasoline, motor oil or even snow with road salt to empty into the basement.  So crazy!

Removing the wall to the right and the 'platform' walkway exposed a bowl shaped floor

So we had to make a change.  Dave from Concrete Prescriptions came back and jackhammered up the center of the floor and then cut the edges to have a nice, clean line.  It looked like a topographical map as he broke it all up!


He installed rebar into the old section of the floor and around the perimeter to give it extra strength. 


He had to build it up a lot at the low spot where the stairs went down to the basement.

He let me be his helper – my first time installing concrete!  I don’t have the proper boots, so most of my help was around the perimeter of the floor. 

Yeah.... I didn't have any boots suitable for this! 
We floated during the initial pour, but the next hour was spent floating it again, to get a nice uniform finish. 

One of the homeowners stopped by to add their initials – no matter what your age, doesn’t everyone want to write in wet concrete like a little kid?  


And now they have a nice level floor that will keep nasty stuff out of the basement!

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Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Raise the Roof to Create New Bedroom and Bath Spa

There have been so many changes in this house, but the biggest change is on the top floor.  This started as a walk up attic, and while you could certainly stand up in the space, you had to walkin a straight line along the peak of the roof.  We bumped the roofline up about 5 feet to create a spacious new living space.

This top floor (actually the 5th level of this split level home) will have two nice sized bedrooms, a full bath and a laundry room.  What a difference from a dark old attic! 

Look at the difference as you reach the top of the staircase.  Originally you were greeted with a big chimney and low headroom.  Now it's a big hallway with several rooms adjoining it.

Both bedrooms have vaulted ceilings, to make them feel more spacious. 

And the front bedroom has a bonus vault from the peak over the double window.  With 4 windows, it’s a big, bright space.  

The plumbers have already installed the rough in water and drain lines throughout the house.

Bathtub is in!!

And the electricians completed all of the rough in wiring as well.

Laundry Room - not quite ready for appliances :) 

For heating and air conditioning, we had mini-splits/heat pumps installed throughout the house. 
So nice to have another woman on the job site!  

I have to admit, I hate the look of a mini-split hanging on a wall, but our contractors mounted them up above doorways, so they are much less obtrusive.  Since the energy savings are significant, not to mention the cooling they provide to make the house comfortable in the summer, this is a great sustainable option for the house and for the planet.
See the mini-split line above the doorway in the back bedroom

We passed all our rough-in inspections last week - woo hoo!  But supply chain challenges will continue slowing us down.  The garage door has finally arrived and will be installed shortly.  The sliding glass door will hopefully show up sometime soon.  And the gas fireplace probably won’t arrive until May.  But the most frustrating thing is the insulation can’t get installed until the end of April (we’ve already been in the queue for a month).  Material and labor shortages are hampering our ability to keep the interior moving.  So for now, the guys will start to focus on the exterior, while we try to be patient.  



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