Thursday, August 30, 2012

Operation Dry Basement - Part 2

So, after putting the perimeter drain  around the entire basement, we expected it to be nice and dry.   And unlike the rest of the country that is experiencing a drought this summer, we've had plenty of rain to try it out.   The good news:  we aren't getting any big puddles or running water like we used to - even with the heaviest of rain.  The drain, dimple board and sump pump are doing their job.  But the bad news:  there are some annoying damp spots in the back of the basement that just won't go away.

We called the 'Crackoligist' - Dave at Concrete Prescriptions LLC - to come back and take a look. The verdict - in some areas the concrete is so thin, and it's right on top of dirt, it's allowing moisture to wick up.  During the winter months, when the furnace is running, the basement floor will be dry.  But in the spring and summer, when there's lots of rain and humidity, these thin spots will continue to look damp.  

The solution?  Put down a heavy plastic barrier and pour a new concrete slab over top.  This will eliminate the wicking that's taking place in the back of the basement.

Next thing we know, there's a big concrete truck, pulling up in front of the house and putting its chute through the basement window.  It's an odd feeling seeing all that concrete go shooting in!

With their heavy rubber boots on,  the guys waded in and quickly floated out the concrete.  

And I know it seems odd, but we're really excited about this nice smooth slab of concrete.  It looks so nice compared with the lumpy, bumpy mess we had before.

 Now that we've got all this in place - let the rains begin!!!  We're ready for mother nature!

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Why Should I Stage My House To Sell It?

I get this question a lot.  Lots of people assume potential buyers can see past furnishings and styles and really appreciate the 'bones' of a house.  But in reality, that's tough for people to do.  Why do you think model homes are always fully decorated?

Here are a couple of things you might want to think through if you're getting ready to put your house on the market:

First and foremost - Buying a house is an emotional experience.   Sure, buyers care about facts and figures - square footage, heating/cooling costs & taxes.  But when it comes right down to it, buyers need to love the house.  Last year, when we had a potential buyer that was trying to figure out where to set up the Christmas tree - I knew they were serious, and they made an offer that night.  You want people to imagine themselves living in your house.  

So how do you do that?

Hide the clutter, but keep a few accessories out
1)  Clean your place up so it looks its best.  Put away all the daily clutter.  I know there's a recommendation to remove all family photos - I'm not sure that is absolutely essential, but pare it down to just one or two.  And empty your kitchen countertops of almost everything!

2)  Pare down your furniture to some key pieces that show well and leave just enough accessories to give the space some character.  Some professional stagers leave a room so bare, it doesn't look like real people live there.  That can give the opposite impression of a warm family home.  Think about a few key accessories that make your house look lived in.

3)  Think about traffic flow.  Can buyers navigate through the house easily, without bumping into furniture?  Maybe you need to put a few chairs into storage.  Or maybe that big coffee table that you love needs to disappear while the house is on the market.  You want your rooms to look big and open!

4)  Set the table.  Remember, you want people to envision themselves living in your home.  So help them think about having holiday dinners and family parties at the house.  This is true for the dining room table......
but depending on the season and weatherr, set the patio table as well.  Decks and patios are important living spaces in a home.  Stage it for a party!
5)  Plan music.  I know this sounds a little silly, but it will set a nice tone for your home.  The trick - what's the right music for your potential buyers.  Richard and I have long discussions about this.  He favors jazz, I worry that seems too 'old fogey' for young buyers.  You'll need to decide what works best in your area.

Want to read more?  The folks at Houzz recently did a great article on staging tips (Houzz 21 Staging Tips).  But I'd love to hear what tried and true ideas you have for staging a home.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tile Style - Creating 'Rug' Borders

As I finish up installation of the tile in the upstairs bath, I thought back on how much I like the look of a 'rug' border on a bathroom floor.  It adds such a nice touch, in what could be a very boring space.  I like it so much - I've done it a number of times.  I thought I'd share a few:

There are lots of options for mixing and matching stone, tile and glass, to get a distinctive look for your bathroom.  This bath is chiaro marble squares with sea glass insets.  The large 6 x 6 tiles provide the outside border and the inside is diagonal 4x4's.  And there are sporadic glass tiles sprinkled through the center.  The sink (on the right side of the photo) also has a sea glass top - so it all ties together.

This bath floor has a center of carerra marble basket weave tile with a thin border of absolute black granite.  The outside border is a very light carrera marble.  This old fashioned bath is a great compliment in a 1920's farmhouse.

This bath/laundry room has a center and outside border of a marble look ceramic tile.  The border is made up of glass and marble bars and has an absolute black granite accent strip to set it all off and tie to the granite vanity top.  For more Before and After photos of this room, check out this link

So what's the plan for the Diamond in the Rough?  Well, it's still a work in process, but here are a few pics as I put it together:
The border is a mini mosaic of glass and marble

The inset is subway tiles of chiaro tumbled marble - the perfect choice near the beach.  It hides sand beautifully!
All the tile is in - now it needs color enhancer, grout and sealer!

Obviously there's a lot more to be done to complete the upstairs bathroom - but it's starting to look pretty nice!

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Putting the House Back Together - Exterior

It feels like we have turned a corner on the project!   We've started putting the house back together again. Good thing - after almost 3 months there wasn't much left to take apart. 

The most dramatic change at this point is the exterior.  It's really changed a lot in the last month.   Of course the new front porch entry made a big statement.  But the new 6 over 1 windows and the awning window on the shed dormer made a difference as well.  Not only do they increase energy efficiency, they really improve the look of the house.  Somehow, they just add more character.


The next big change we made was taking the vinyl siding off the front of the house. It was a gut wrenching decision, because we didn't know what we'd find behind all that vinyl.  But thankfully, while there were some shakes that needed replacing, overall it was in fine shape.  We've had the cedar shakes repaired and are thrilled with how it looks. 

Now that we've seen how nice the cedar shakes look, we would love to take the vinyl off the other sides.  But, we're just not ready for that kind of gamble. You never know what the shingles might look like and how much repair cost would be involved!  At least this way the new buyers can make their own decision on whether to remove the rest of the vinyl.

Finally, the vinyl siding got repaired on the rest of the house - hiding the big ugly patches we had all over the house.  Later this week we hope to get the place power washed and then the cedar shakes and trim will be ready for paint.  I'll get some more exterior photos posted when we get to that step!

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Thursday, August 16, 2012


Every profession seems to have it's own jargon and we continue to laugh as we hear new expressions.  We started our careers in the Aerospace industry and have always used the term 'close enough for government work' when we're measuring things (keep in mind, it wasn't unusual to hold tolerances to .003" in that industry - go figure!).

Another one that crops up pretty frequently is 'dead nuts' when something comes out exactly right - although I'm not sure where that one comes from.  I googled it and found definitions ranging from nautical terms to the origins of measurement.  And there was one entry that said it means extra crazy!  So it's been around a long time.

One that's new to us is 'caulk and paint makes us what we ain't'.  That rang true the other day when we pulled out a piece of molding from a window that had more caulk than wood.  I guess some folks add duct tape to that expression as well.  We've certainly seen lots of that in these old houses.

And a new favorite of Richard's is 'nothing new after 2'.....which means you can't start a new project late in the day.  He uses that about once a week now!

So what expressions have you heard tied to renovating homes?

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Time for Something Pretty

Now as much as I love installing windows, repairing drywall and sweeping up sawdust, after 2 months of nonstop heavy lifting, I needed a chance to do something different.....something pretty.  So I took a little time off over the last couple of weekends to create a padded headboard for the master bedroom.  It was a quick, easy project - with a total time investment of less than 3 hours.  Now I can't wait until the room is ready for it.

Here's the approach:

We took a scrap piece of plywood and cut it to size - in our case, we have 48 inches of headroom on the wall, so that set our height dimension.  For width, we added 4 inches to a queen mattress (60 inches), so 64 inches wide.

We banded it with 2x4's to give it some strength and a thicker profile.  We'll add a layer of 2 inch foam to pad it up.

A quick squirt of spray adhesive bonds the foam to the headboard

Wrap the foam in quilt batting to give it softer edges

Helpful hint - use an electric stapler.  It goes much faster!

And if the staples don't go in all the way - give them a tap with your hammer.

Layout your fabric on the headboard using upholstery pins (a very useful investment!!)  This headboard only requires 3 seams, so it's simple sewing, but getting the layout right is a key step.

After sewing up the seams, press them open and pin the finished piece back on the headboard with the upholstery pins.  Start stapling opposite sides to get even seams.

Finally, pad and cover the 2x4 legs for a more finished look.  And here's the finished product!!

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bedroom to Bathroom Transformation - Progress Update

Soon there will be a bathroom on the 2nd floor!!!  What a modern concept!  But seriously, when we first looked at this house, we knew it made sense to sacrifice the 4th bedroom, to make room for a full bath and laundry on the second floor.  And now that the drywall is in place, it's starting to take shape.

Bathroom - 'Before' as a bedroom (and secret marijuana grow room)
Why does it look so different now?  Well, it's a lot bigger.  We removed the old knee wall that ran across the back of the room to open up the space.  It provides a great location for the washer/dryer closet.  It also provides a dedicated space for the toilet and a closet for the master bedroom  And, of course, we took out the spigot and hose that was apparently used to water marijuana plants!  That was one of the biggest surprises in this house :-)

And why, you ask, are the walls green?  That's a special moisture resistant drywall product that's designed for bathroom applications.  That, coupled with a concrete wallboard product we'll use around the tub, will keep this bathroom dry and mold free for years to come.  

What else has changed?  Well, the ugly acoustic tile (complete with nasty water stains) is gone and we have brand new windows in place.  And of course all new plumbing and electric.

The overall design includes this wood vanity (hmmm.... I'm thinking about replacing the knobs with glass), Restoration Hardware Lugarno Sconces, glass/marble micro mosaic accents on the floor and tub surround, and a tumbled marble floor.  I'm still noodling over the paint color, but am thinking about a sea glass blue.  
But of course, we have a long way to go before we can install all these elements!

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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Drywall Tango

Dan Caron's drywall team came in and installed all the drywall in 3.5 hours.  Amazing!!!  They didn't have a single wasted step - constantly on the move, one team putting up a new sheet while the other team roto-zipped the openings.  Check this out:

Install full sheet across Kitchen window and door

Cut out opening for window

Cut out other window and doorway

Finish removing doorway panel while the team moves to the next piece 
Elapsed time - 4 minutes!

I wish I could paint it that fast!!!  But now that the drywall is done, the rooms are really taking shape.  I'll share some of the bedroom & bath pics later this week, after we get rid of some of the dust.

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Friday, August 3, 2012

Party House

One of our initial goals, when we started tearing out walls, was to create a big open floor plan.  From the beginning, I kept thinking this house had great potential for entertaining.  I can see big cocktail parties - family holiday dinners - or intimate dinner parties.  The circular floor plan is perfect for any approach.

This week was devoted to drywall installation and now that we have walls instead of studs, you can start to see the room flow.

First up - we have a real foyer.  Instead of entering through a funky porch, there is a big foyer that opens to the living room and dining room.  Reclaiming this space made a huge difference in the feel of the entire first floor

Before - Open Porch instead of foyer

Next change, originally, the living room and dining room were distinctly separate spaces.  Now they blend together, with lots of open space - no bottle necks at doorways during big parties!

Before - view of LR (left) and DR (right)
Now - One big open space off of the foyer

Last, but not least, we tore out the wall between the kitchen (it was actually the bathroom, that's the medicine chest on the wall!) and living room, to provide one large cohesive space.  With the new floor plan, no one has to feel trapped in the kitchen - away from the action in the living room.  Now it's all tied together.  Just wait till we get the new peninsula and bar stools in place - it's going to be great!
Before - with wall coming down
After - Circular floor plan

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