Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Sustainable Renovation

One goal on each of our projects is to minimize the amount of material that goes to the landfill.  We are particularly pleased on this project - despite the large amount of demolition on the second floor, we only sent one small dump trailer of debris to the land fill.  

Look at these beautiful boards and joists!  We reclaimed them during demo and will use them for a variety of purposes in the house.  In fact, I have such a long list of projects - we're not sure we will have enough wood for all of it!    Tops on the list of projects are reclaimed wood counter tops for the kitchen island, followed by a few open shelves next to the sink.  And I'm still trying to figure out a way to utilize barn doors from reclaimed wood.

We are also faithful donors to Habitat for Humanity's ReStore.  For this house, we donated the old kitchen cabinets, the appliances, ceiling fans and light fixtures.     

I also love using ReStore as a source for materials like old doors and hardware.  And in one embarrassing shopping trip - I bought a door that I realized I had donated months earlier!!  (I've also been known to buy something I thought I could use, only to donate it back at the end of a project.)

So while renovating old houses does generate some material for a landfill - we're pleased that we can keep it to an absolute minimum!
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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Where to Splurge on a Renovation

One of the most challenging aspects of any renovation project is figuring out where to spend your money.  It's tempting to blow your budget on things that future buyers can easily see - but in reality, it's the stuff behind the walls that's really important.  And when you live in a climate like Maine (yes, spring arrived over the weekend along with a big snowstorm!), insulation goes to the top of the list.

This ceiling could have had fiberglass - with minimum R value in the old rafters
Now technically, we only needed to provide high R value insulation in the new construction area of our second floor, aka the new dormer.  Per code, we could just have used fiberglass to fill in the existing rafters throughout the rest of the second floor.  But given our climate, that just didn't seem like the right option.  We want something that will make the second floor extremely comfortable for the future homeowners as well as keep heating costs to a minimum - and it's a much more environmentally sound approach.

So we looked at several different options and finally decided on spray foam.  Spray foam was twice the budget of fiberglass, but it will cover the entire roof, which is important when you have a hip roof with multiple dormers.  This means the space behind the knee walls will be nice and toasty - keeping the first floor ceilings warm as well.   And with an R value of 7 per inch, it gives us the best possible insulation value.

Ed Libby from T.E.A.M Insulation came out to do the job.  It's a messy process with chemicals, so he needed a lot of PPE (personal protective equipment).  

He suited up and showed me how it was done.  Doesn't it look easy?  I love watching this video - see how the foam expand on contact with the roof sheathing?  And it heats up to 220 degrees!

So I gave it a try with Ed coaching me along.  And quickly discovered, .....it's not so easy.  He was able to contain all the spray into a tight pattern - I ended up with a sloppy mess.  Thankfully he went back and fixed my handiwork  :-)

It was a big job that took two days.  And now that it's done?  We couldn't be happier.  As soon as you walk upstairs you notice the difference.  The house feels tighter and warmer - but also much quieter.  There is a sound insulation effect that is an added bonus.
Foamed Hip Dormer

So yes, we splurged on the foam insulation - but think it was the right decision!  The future homeowners will really appreciate it.  Now we just need to figure out how to balance our reno budget.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Vintage Kitchen Design for the Bungalow

It's always fun to start designing a new kitchen.   Our overall goal for the 1927 bungalow?  To create a vintage feel, but with all the modern amenities homeowners need in a kitchen today.  And this one has lots of possibilities, but also some interesting challenges.

So let's start with the challenges:
- 3 doorways
- Monuments (ie. something not easily moved)
   - Furnace flue
   - Cast Iron Radiator that's 4 feet tall
- Narrow-ish room (not wide enough for a big island)

But we have some great things as well:
-  The original cast iron sink!!!
-  Original red birch flooring
-  A wall that can be removed to open up the space
-  High ceilings, so we can order extra tall cabinets

So with those things in mind, we started playing with some ideas.  And of course we had our usual 'must have' list - lots of storage, a place to sit and chat with the chef, and plenty of counter space for multiple cooks.

Here's the working idea for the floorpan.  First, we decided to close the doorway to the bedrooms.  It wasn't really necessary (it's not that long a walk to go around!) and gives us a great spot for a big pantry.  We also decided to remove the wall to the dining room, to open up the space.

I looked at several different cabinet options, but decided to stick with the Martha Stewart line of cabinets.  I really like the painted look finish - that's much more durable than real paint - and they've held up well in my previous kitchens.

We spent lots of time working through the details and finally came up with this design.  Of course it doesn't show the antique sink or the right style of windows or doors.....but you get the idea!  The island will have room for a couple of stools and will also hold a double trash bin.  We will build a custom mud bench next to the giant radiator - a great place for coats and boots to dry off when you come in on a snowy night!  And the pantry will be big enough to hold lots and lots of food.  We are also going to install a custom stove hood.

Cabinets and layout are important.  But, what really makes a kitchen a 'wow' are the finishes.  And we've spent a lot of time working through all the finish design details.  We want to reuse many of the vintage elements that came from the home.  First and foremost is that fabulous sink.  But we also want to use a lot of the reclaimed wood from the attic - for some open shelves and a beautiful top for the island.  And of course we'll refinish those beautiful antique red birch floors.

The pantry needs a special door - and none of the existing doors in the house would fit.  So we scoured local antique shops and salvage yards until we found this unique 5 panel glass door.  We also discovered a small glass doorknob for it, that came from a local hotel that was torn down.  It's almost a perfect match to the others in the house.  It will make a really nice design statement!

Of course I won't be able to show you the completed kitchen for awhile.  The cabinets are on order. the electrical needs to be done, and a few walls need to be built as well.  But we're pretty pleased with the design!

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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Now That's an Open Floor Plan!!!

As luck would have it, I had to be out of town when the guys removed the walls on the first floor.  It killed me to miss all the fun!  So as soon as my plane landed back in Portland, I rushed over to the house to see the result.

Now, I thought I knew what it would look like.  I have spent hours and hours working through the floor plan design, trying to envision the rooms with the walls eliminated.  But despite all that, reality exceeded my expectations!  I couldn't believe how fantastic it is!!!  With the walls gone, the house feels twice as big.  And the rooms just flow together, to create a wonderful living space.

Let's start with the view from what used to be the enclosed front porch.
See those big LVL beams across each opening?  They are triple thick and carry the load from the walls we've removed and the weight of the new dormer.  That's why we needed to pour the new footings in the basement.  Oh, and the blue insulation?  That's the stairwell to the new second floor.....it will be opened up later, but now we're trying to keep everything warm with our cold Maine winter nights.

The first peek without the wall to the sunroom shows just how much sunlight starts to stream into the living room.  Now it will be a nice bright space!
See what a big, beautiful room it's going to be!

We took out a 15 foot wall between the living room and dining room, doesn't it make a huge difference?

And last but not least, the kitchen now feels much bigger and brighter.  The refrigerator will be moved to the other side of the room and there is no longer a pinch point for traffic going back and forth to the dining room. The best surprise in here?  Original red birch floors were under that vinyl tile.  It's like winning the lottery to find them!

We still need to update electrical, move some radiators and install a kitchen, but it's already a huge step forward.  What do you think?  

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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

It's Amazing How Much Can Change in 48 Hours

We have been waiting for weeks for a stretch of nice weather, but Mother Nature hasn't been helping. When you're ready to cut a 20 x 14 foot hole in the roof, you don't want any bad weather.  But after weeks of waiting, lots of discussion back and forth and looking at multiple weather forecasts/apps, we decided to get started on Monday morning, bright and early.

Lots of reclaimed 90 year old lumber!
The team from Demo Brothers and Waterhouse Builders jumped right in to get started.

But this wasn't your usual demo job.  My goal:  reuse the majority of the original lumber elsewhere in the house - so we are minimizing what goes to the landfill and maximizing use of the amazing 90 year old wood.  That means the whole team needed to be careful about how the old roof was dismantled.

One small dump trailer of debris after dismantling one side of the roof!
The result?    A big stack of beautiful old lumber and one small dump trailer of debris!!  What will we do with all that lumber?  We're all having fun thinking of ideas.  Exposed collar ties, ceiling beams, planked ceilings and furniture.....lots of possibilities!!

By noontime, we had a big giant hole in the roof.  And that's when we got the weather report that heavy showers were on the way.  Yikes!  That 15% chance of rain had suddenly mushroomed into 85%.  There was a mad dash to gather giant tarps and everyone was on standby to pull them out.  But thankfully, it never rained very hard and they were able to keep going.

The first rafter to go up was a big milestone.  And we suddenly realized how high we are.  Look at the views around this place!
Getting everything under cover before the rain starts
By nightfall the first day, we had the roof sheathing in place and a true open floor plan!

And we got some nice surprises.  There are some winter views of the Portland skyline and also Fort Gorges in the middle of Casco Bay.  They won't be the same when the trees leaf out, but it's really lovely in mid-winter.  That resulted in a change to the window plan - we decided to add a new window in the dormer cheek wall, to let the new homeowners enjoy that view!

By the end of day 2, the whole dormer was framed up.  Windows will arrive next week and they can get installed.  I love this new space!!!

Master bedroom space before
And what is it like inside?  Look at the difference!  The vaulted ceiling will be great for the master bedroom and the windows will make it nice and bright.  It's such a huge change!
Master bedroom space with new dormer ceiling
Obviously we still have a lot more to do.  But it feels like the place has been transformed in 48 hours!

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