Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What is it???

We found this in the attic of the house and just can't figure out what it is.  I've asked every contractor and sales person that's walked through.  But all we've gotten is a lot of head scratching.

So I thought I would try a broader audience.  What do you think?  It's obviously hand made and was designed to clamp onto something.  The spring action is pretty clever.  And it slides up and down on a couple of dowels.  But we have no idea what it's for.
This spring keeps tension for holding power

Clever, don't you think?
We would love to hear your ideas!

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

And the Winner Is.......

Thank you so much for helping me figure out how to stage the little bonus room - your input was so helpful!!  I tallied up blog comments, Facebook and some of the direct emails and a craft room was the clear winner (but the idea of adding a kid area in the room is great, I'm going to try and do that!).  The room is such a disaster now (check out this photo I took this morning), it's hard to believe it will ever look nice.

Your suggestions were fantastic.  I loved the idea of a reading/study space or a yoga studio.  And a wrapping paper space!  Wow, what a clever idea.  I heard from two people that they've recently been in houses that had an entire room devoted just to wrapping gifts.  I'm trying to get my head around that.  Do they have so many rooms they just can't decide what to do with them all?  Or do they buy lots and lots of presents!  LOL

Interestingly, the day after I posted my query, I made a field trip to IKEA (it's a 2.5 hour drive from Portland) and they had not 1, but 2 craft room displays!!!  Isn't that wild?  Or as Teri said 'I think the universe is trying to tell you something'!  I guess craft rooms are really trendy now.  And these were such great rooms, I'll definitely be using a few of their ideas (but we won't include all the red price tags).

What ideas would you steal from this room??  I love all the space for fabric!!

As always, thanks for your input and suggestions.  They're always appreciated!  And be sure and 'like' us on Facebook if you want more updates.


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Thursday, March 21, 2013

What To Do With This Room????

We have a Bonus Room off of the family room, that I'm trying to figure out how to stage.  It's not big - just 8 x 11 - but it's got a nice pocket door that allows it to be closed off from the rest of the house.  It's become the place to store everything that we don't want ruined during construction.  And for some reason it tends to be a little warmer than the rest of the house - recently, 5 of us were in there having lunch, trying to stay warm while the walls were opened up in the kitchen.

But what should we do with this room???  There are a couple of options we're considering:

1)  Everyone I know that has small children tells me it's critical to have a 'Lego Room'.  Some place to keep toys and give their kids a place to play.  Seems like that could be a good use of the room, although there is a nice built in desk that I would like to leave in place.

2)  Another option is a Craft Room.  My mom always had a sewing room, which is a luxury I've never had space for.  So I suppose I'm a bit envious.  It would be great to have a place to set up a sewing machine, store craft supplies, etc.  It would utilize the built in desk and it might be an attractive feature for staging the house.

So what do you think?  Lego Room?  Or Craft Room?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Waterlogged to Waterproof - Basement Transformation

Our project house has a wet basement.  A really wet basement.  It seems to seep in from the back of the house and flows across the floor over to the sump pump (which oddly enough has a 1" high lip around it, so it keeps the water out - go figure).

So once again we called Dave at Concrete Prescriptions to come rescue the basement.  It's a tough job.  Lots of jackhammering is required to break up the perimeter of the entire foundation.  They had to carry out the concrete in buckets (or as Dave says, 'we have buckets like carpenter's have nails').

Lots of roots had clogged up the old drains
Interestingly, the house had a clay pipe drainage system that was installed when the house was built....but a lot of tree roots have grown into the system since the house was built in 1947.  Here's an example, with the roots spread out.  But most areas were so compacted with roots, they completely clogged up the drainage pipe.

Once they got the old, clay drainage pipes out, we discovered there was lots of water that had been blocked up.  See how much is sitting in this channel?  But after opening it up and getting the right pitch on it, this water disappeared overnight.   
Next up, the guys installed a lining fabric, perforated pipe and crushed stone, all around the perimeter of the basement.  This is all sloped towards the sump pump, to ensure the water drains properly.  

See the Dimples???

A critical step is to install the Dimple Board (aka drainage membrane) all around the foundation.  The dimple board comes in giant rolls. It is installed over the concrete block and is tucked into the drainage channel.  That way, any water that might make its way in, will immediately drain away.  

Final step - pour fresh concrete over top of the new drainage channel.  The basement floor looks great.  We've had lots of snow melt as well as rain and the basement is nice and dry.  What a huge change!!  We're ready for a wet spring - if it ever gets here!  

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Stairwell and Back Hall - Before & During

We're a long way from Before & After photos - so I thought I'd share a few 'During'.

Now that the second floor is insulated (and we wouldn't be heating the great outdoors), we got to open up the stairwell to the second floor.  What a difference!  It has a whole different feel to it now!

Don't you love how I leave great big notes for the crew???  I'm sure I drive those guys crazy :-)

Look at this cool (and well protected for decades) wallpaper!!

Stairwall - During

So nice and open!
I tried to find a good 'before' pic looking down the back hall....but since the stairwell wall was in the way, it was hard to find the right angle.  This is the best I could do.  Besides opening the stairwell wall on the right, we've removed the louvered closet on the left, the funky arched wall and raised the floor level and ceiling in front of the windows to match the rest of the house.  
Back hallway - Before
Back hallway - During, with staircase opened up

The drywall will get finished up this week.  Next week the hardwood floors go in and then the really fun stuff starts.  Stay tuned!

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Progress Update - Beams Up, Walls Gone, Love the Open Floor Plan!

Wow, we've made huge progress around here in the last week or so.  It's starting to look like a house, instead of a demolition project!  Okay, well maybe a dirty, dusty house, but at least we have drywall instead of studs now!

First up:  the antique beams are in place.  Thanks to the folks over at Portland Architectural Salvage, we now know that our beams came from the 1794 Zeblon Tricky house in Westbrook, Maine.

We are in awe over this old wood.  After all, if the trees were used in 1794, when do you think this tree started growing?  Look how tight the tree rings are on this old growth wood!

View from front door - Before

With the beams in, the floor plan has that spacious feel we were going for.  Here are a couple of photos to give you an idea how much it opens up the space.  I marked the one wall that didn't you can see the difference.  It's pretty dramatic!

View from front door - During
Current View - Wow, what a difference!!
 The changes are also dramatic when you enter from the garage.  Before, you had a half wall, the scary basement steps and a big wall of closets taking up a lot of space.  Now, it's light, bright and open!  We'll be ready for kitchen cabinets in no time.
Current View - nice and open 
This week we'll get the dry wall mudded and ready for paint.  Stay tuned, I'll have more pictures soon!!

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Monday, March 4, 2013

The Quest for Hand Hewn Beams: or Why We Like 'Wood From the Hood'

Even though our house was built in 1947, we want it to feel like a much older home.  So when we started looking for a way to transition from the old ceilings to the new - rustic beams seemed like the perfect design element.

We've had original hand hewn beams in many of our own homes over the years.  In fact, in our 1790 colonial, the floor joists were entire giant tree trunks that just had one side flattened for floor boards!  There is something about those hand hewn beams that really speaks to us.  We love the sense of history that comes with this old wood.  And I guess it's trendy.  NPR just did a story on 'Wood From The Hood' (love that term!) on this morning's newscast!

Since power tools weren't in existence when these beams were cut, you might wonder how they got their shape.  Typically, they were cut with a broad axe and an adze.  An adze is a unique tool that's gaining some new popularity - Click Here if you want to see a demonstration of how to use one.   It lets the carpenter take off thin wafers of wood, to achieve the desired dimension of lumber. 

See how the adze cuts look on our beam?  Love that look and the history that goes with it!

Thankfully, when old structures are taken down, particularly here in New England, salvage organizations come in and remove all the original beams so they can be repurposed.  We started looking for sources and were pleasantly surprised to find multiple options.   Price points varied a lot, depending on size, quality and condition.  We had quotes ranging from $5-$16 a foot.  And while many of the salvage providers keep them outside (aka - buried under a couple feet of snow in a Maine winter), Portland Architectural Salvage had them in a nice, dry warehouse.  

And there was a lot to choose from!  We needed two lengths - 16' and 12'.  They let us lay them out in the parking lot, to decide which matched up the best.  

We loaded them on Mike's truck and he and Richard muscled them into the house.

Stay tuned, we hope to get them installed this week!  I promise to share pictures!

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Sunday, March 3, 2013

'Living the Dream'.......Really????

A friend of mine, who doesn't like her job, wants to quit and start renovating houses for a living.  She told me 'You're living the dream!".

I found that pretty hilarious.  I'm not sure, when people start thinking about this as a career, they realize what a big lifestyle change this will mean.  Don't get me wrong, I love what I'm doing.  But it is a LOT different than a corporate job.

Sadly, this 'Dig Safe' hat is now a fashion accessory!
  • Change #1 - your wardrobe.  I still own high heel shoes, but they're in the back of the closet with the dust bunnies (although truth be told, there isn't a lot of opportunity to wear spike heels in Maine in the winter).  I can't leave the house without a Base Layer - aka long underwear.  It's the only way to make it through the day in a cold house!  And jewelry and accessories?  Check out my painting hat.
  • Change #2 - You'll trade Board Rooms for Butt Cracks.  It's an occupational hazard - LOL.  I've just learned to avert my eyes. 
  • Change #3 -  You'll employ a combination of cajoling, nagging and encouragement to keep everything on schedule.  There are lots of moving parts to coordinate.  But wait....maybe that isn't so different from the corporate life!!
  • Change #4 - Forget having nice fingernails.  I'd be embarrassed to have a manicure.  And I seem to routinely be showering saw/plaster/old-house dust out of my hair.
On the good news side, I've lost almost 20 pounds without changing my eating habits one bit.  And I still consume copious amounts of chocolate!  Not sitting at a desk and in meetings every day has it's plusses!  I feel better, am stronger, and have fewer aches and pains.  I recently saw a report from a Mayo Clinic doc ( that suggested humans haven't evolved to sit all day.  And given my experience, I totally agree!

All in all, I love what I do and am very happy with the lifestyle.  So is it living the dream?  Well it is for me, but I'm not sure it's for everyone!

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