Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Demo Day!!!

So it feels like we're doing things a bit backwards with demo coming so late in the game!  But all the trades are so busy here in Maine, you can't always do things in the usual order.  So we had the demo crew going on while we started the addition - we could do both things in parallel!

And as usual, we found some funky things during demolition!  The big story in this house - insulation.  We need to make huge improvements in the home's insulation!

For example, the first floor bathroom was added onto the outside of the house - so it's hanging outside of the heated envelope of the house.  The floor, ceiling and 3 walls are exterior walls.  I would have expected it to have really robust insulation.  Instead, we found this 1" styrofoam (kind of like the stuff you find packed in a box you get from Amazon).  And some of the walls had nothing!!!  How in the world didn't that room, with lots of water pipes, freeze all the time (or maybe it did!)?  Obviously, we need to make changes there.
Bathroom wall with exhaust fan
While we're on the topic of insulation, the second floor ceiling is insulated - but it's installed upside down!!  The way it should work is the vapor barrier (the brown Kraft paper you see on the other sloped walls) should be on the warm side of the building.  Installed this way, it allows warm air to get trapped in the insulation which could create mold and rot.

Maybe that explains why we found so many mouse nests (see all the mouse poop??) in the ceiling!  Ick!!!
And that's what it looks like when mice live in your ceiling!!!!

And the final insulation discovery was in the basement.  There was some foam insulation sprayed around some of the walls (okay, a lot of foam, look at that big bubble of it!!), so I assumed that the walls were insulated and they were just sealing a few gaps.

Wrong!!!  We opened them up and discovered there was nothing in the walls.  Add that to the list for insulation as well!

Did we have some nice surprises?

Well yes, now that it's opened up, it looks so much bigger!

Here's the view from the front door before:

And now you can see all the way through (and it will be even better once we remove that load bearing wall!)

Here's the view once you step into the living room before and after demo.  Removing that non-load bearing wall made a huge difference!

Remember the two small bedrooms upstairs - that barely had room for a small bed?

Well by removing the closet (we will relocate them), now there is room for a larger bed and a dresser!  It's still a small room - but it's a huge change!  And the flooring looks fantastic under the old closet walls.  That's a bonus!

We also tore out the old floors on the first floor.  It was a mismatch of fir, patches, laminate and vinyl. The updated house needs a cohesive floor throughout the entire first floor, so we are starting from scratch. 

So now that we've pulled it apart, it's time to start putting it back together again.  Stay tuned!  

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Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Getting Started!

We have some big news!   We broke ground for the addition!!  It's a major milestone that takes a lot of work.  The old deck had to be ripped off the building and then the digging started.

Once the hole was dug, the guys got the footings poured.

They set up for a day and then the foundation wall forms were put into place.

It was fascinating to watch them pour the walls - much like a well practiced dance.

And when they pulled the forms off, we had a perfectly level foundation.

But we still needed to pour the floor (this will be a tall crawl space, but we wanted the convenience and benefits of a concrete slab for the floor).  The guys started this bright and early one morning and quickly got the concrete poured and started to float it out.

With that milestone complete, we're ready to start building!

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Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Centennial Cottage: Do We Have Views???

When you buy a house 1/2 a block from the beach, you start to wonder what kind of views it might have if you build up.  From the first floor, there are great winter water views between the houses.  Upstairs?  Well, the windows are so low and tiny, it's tough to tell, even when you get on your hands and knees to look.

In the past, we've used ladders and cellphones on sticks to try and figure out if we had a view.  But that's so old school!  So I hired a drone to come help us take a look.

And the verdict?  It looks like we have year round views of Willard Beach!  And in the winter you can see Cushing Island and more of Casco Bay.  Woo hoo!!

The new 3rd floor deck is going to be the perfect spot to sit and watch the ships sail in!! Now we just need to get it built!

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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Centennial Cottage: Creating a Plan

So this project has some pretty big challenges.  Lack of headroom for anyone over 5 feet tall, small rooms, leaky windows, etc, etc.  But to really understand how big those challenges are, we need to start with the lot that the house sits on.

This is a typical lot for the neighborhood - about 6,000 square feet.  You can see the existing house on the right side of the lot.  By building code, we can't build in the area 20 feet from the front and back of the lot.  What does that mean?

Part of the house sits outside the 20 foot no-build-zone.  It's existing and therefore 'grandfathered', so it doesn't need to change (they didn't have zoning in 1918!).  But we can't expand in those areas in the setback space. That means no roofline changes - so we can't just build up.  And of course without changing the roofline, we can't fix the headroom problem in the stairwell.  With a house this small, there really isn't an option to move the staircase, that would just make the rooms ridiculously tiny.

What can we do?  Well, we can put on an addition.  It has to fit in that 20 foot front and back setback, so it has to be long and narrow.  But that gives us the opportunity to build a new safe staircase, add a 3rd bedroom with bath and create a bit more elbow room than the current small house has.

So we got to work.  I sketched up an initial plan on my CAD system and then worked with Hammond Lumber to create true drawings.

I really want a house that will fit in with the neighborhood and mirror the style of the original house.  It's a bit tricky with such a narrow addition and we went through a few iterations, but the result will hopefully look like it's always been there.
Starting Point

The new floor plan is far more livable than the original.  As you can see, the first floor of the existing house is very small.
Dining Room - Living Room straight ahead, Kitchen to left
So here's the new plan.  The new front door will open into a foyer with a large living room to the left.  To the right, we've moved the kitchen to a new location - much more central with the new layout.  In fact, we think this might have been the original location of the kitchen!

The dining room stays in the same spot, but we'll make it larger by moving/eliminating some walls and adding a set of sliding doors out to the deck.

What was the kitchen will now be a home office - with the adjacent bathroom.  It might also be a great place for a sofa bed, to provide space for houseguests that need single floor living.
Kitchen today - future home office
I know it's hard to visualize from the blueprints - so here's a 3D blow up of the first floor.  It's so much more spacious!!

The new staircase takes you up to the 2nd floor landing and the master suite.  Gone is the crazy staircase of the original house with the lack of headroom when you get to the landing.
2nd Floor
The Master is a large bedroom that will have a wall of wardrobes for lots of clothes storage.  The bathroom is spacious with a large walk in shower.

It took some work, but we also figured out how to move the washer/dryer up to the 2nd floor.  That will be so much more convenient for the new homeowners.

The two original bedrooms will stay, but we'll reconfigure the closets to make the rooms more spacious.  And by making some changes, the back bedroom can open from the hallway, rather than requiring a path through the bathroom - now that's progress!

The old staircase space will be eliminated and made into part of the hallway.  It's not tall enough to stand upright, but maybe we could create a built in desk and some big closets, for storing bulky items.  You can never have too much closet space!

Best of all, there will be a bonus space on the 3rd floor.  This could be used as an additional office or maybe a spot for the kids to hang out with friends.  There will also be a nice rooftop deck.

This might look like something that came together quickly, but there was a lot of back and forth to really get a design that worked.  Total elapsed time was about 3 months, including paperwork and permitting.  But at long last we're good to go!

This is a much bigger project than what we usually tackle - but the final result should be pretty great!! Stay tuned for lots of progress updates!

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Moving Fast - Asbestos, Paint Colors and More

So for our very first project, we had the folks from Safe Environmental Solutions come in and remove the asbestos siding.  They told me it's a product called Transite, which was very popular in the 50's and 60's.  In the world of asbestos, this is one of the safer types to have.  It's very hard and not very 'friable' - the term for creating dust that creates issues if it is inhaled.

So in theory, we could have left it on the house.  But since we'll be putting on an addition, the siding should all match.  It's an expensive change, but it had to go!

And even though this isn't as dangerous as some other asbestos products, the guys still needed to use all the usual precautions, including lots of plastic to contain any potential dust, hazmat suits, and special containers to seal the shingles.

Oh, and they needed a shower setup, to completely shower off and make sure they didn't have any asbestos on their body when they were done.
What color is lurking beneath the asbestos???
First peek - Black clapboards!!
But the most shocking thing during the process, was discovering the color under the shingles.  It's black, or maybe a deep charcoal gray.  In New England, we have a lot of dark colored homes (in many cases wood shingles that have darkened over time), but I wonder when black was popular??  In the 50's or 60's, before this house was covered in asbestos shingles?  

Which do you like?  Black or Yellow/Aqua???
Once I recovered from the surprise,  I started to like it!  I started to envision how it could look with lots of bright, white trim.  

Who knew a black house could be so charming?
And while I was daydreaming about what color we would use for the house, an email popped up from the neighbors - they would be putting up a new fence in a couple of weeks.  The fence is right next to the shed, so if I wanted to do any painting or maintenance on the shed, it needs to be done now.  And of course the shed siding color and roof need to match the house!
The shed needs some TLC!!
Yikes!  I thought I had months to pick a color and instead I only have a couple of days.  So I got to work. As we've discussed before, when choosing the color for the exterior of the house, you want to pick something different than the neighbors.  There is a LOT of white and blue siding around the house, so those colors went off the list.

I went back into my folder of magazine clippings for color inspiration and was startled to discover I've collected lots of dark gray house photos over the years!!  Maybe this could work!
I've had some of these clippings for years!!!  But still like them!
And I saw this on Pinterest, which is pretty gorgeous!  Black with lots of white and a pop of color on the front door!

We are going to use Hardie Plank Siding on the house and thankfully they have a limited number of colors.  I picked out the 3 I liked best - one bold dark black/gray, one a bit edgy and one 'safe' choice.
Northwest exposure
Same colors - but don't they look different in this light???

I've put them on the main body of the house and on the shed, to see them in different light.  Isn't it amazing how different they look on different walls?  I've started getting input from some of the neighbors and have until tomorrow to make the decision!  This feels like such a nail biter!  Do you have a favorite?  

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The Centennial Cottage

There she is, our newest project!!!  The Centennial Cottage - well actually, built in 1918, she's 101 years old.  And she's seen a lot of updates over the years.  The first update you can see right away - asbestos siding (ugh!  One of these days I'd like to do a project without asbestos remediation!).  And there are even more updates inside.

What do I love about this house?  It's the old real estate mantra - LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!!!  Just half a block from the beach, it's on a nice sized lot with lots of privacy.  What?  Privacy close to the beach???  How can that be?  Most beach houses are so closely set,  you can practically pass a borrowed cup of sugar to your neighbor through the windows.

Well this lucky house is at the end of a dead end street with backyards from other houses surrounding it.  The views are so lovely!
Dining Room View
And it backs up to a condo association that has a huge meadow.  There are wildflowers, beautiful gardens - oh, and the beach!!
This deck looks out over the soon-to-be cute little shed and meadow - what a relaxing view for your morning cup of coffee!

And there is something about a gambrel roofline that makes my heart go a flutter.  It's such a New England element and when it's on a beach cottage, it's even better!

What else do I love?  The light!!  The living spaces in this house are flooded with sunlight and it's so light and bright!  That's something that we really can't fix, if a house has a lot of north facing windows or huge evergreen trees next to it, you'll never have a lot of light coming in - so it's a huge plus.

What don't I love?  Well, it's tiny.  814 square feet to be exact.  So everything is really tight inside.

And with all the updates over the years, they tore out every single bit of antique architectural interest.  Seriously, it's all drywall and knotty pine trim.  And ceiling fans..... there are a lot of ceiling fans.....
Living Room
Living Room - with an odd little cubby in the wall.....not sure why
Dining Room with Keyhole Opening to Kitchen (why???)
Oh, and a boob light in the dining room.
Kitchen Peek through keyhole opening
See, the kitchen doesn't have anything that looks like an old house, except maybe the hole we ripped in the ceiling to verify the joist spacing!!
And a 1960's newel post.
It's devoid of old house charm.  And I haven't quite figured out what to do about that.  Do we recreate it in antique style?  Or do I give it a more contemporary vibe, since I won't be destroying anything.
First floor bathroom
And then there's the tall person problem (and I am a tall person!).  This place must have had a lot of petite owners over the years.  Case in point, look at this shower!  John would have to do some sort of limbo move to wash his hair!

And the upstairs ceiling fans could scalp a tall person!

But wait, that's not all!  The staircase is a NIGHTMARE!!  The steps have a rise of 9" (typical is 7") and when you get to the top of the stairs, you have to do this weird 'twist and duck' motion so you don't hit your head and shoulder.  It's a challenge for those of us that are tall!  And then there's the whole issue of getting furniture upstairs.  We had lovely tenants living here over the summer and they had to leave their queen sized bed in the living room, because it couldn't make it up the stairs.

This whole hallway is a challenge!  Very narrow with a steep sloped ceiling.

Okay I lied, there is one antique item - this octagonal bathtub is pretty cool.  So there is one 'keeper' architectural element.  I've never seen one like this before and am curious if we'll find a date stamped on the bottom of it.

But as cool as that bathtub is, it's can't hide the fact that you have to walk through the bathroom to get to the bedroom.  Interesting design choice, don't you think?  
Bedroom #2 - you have to walk through the bathroom to get there!
And another ceiling fan!  
And then there is this tiny, tiny room.  The previous owners used it as a short term rental property and had a twin bed in here - tucked into the closet.  But not surprisingly, the City does not count this as a bedroom.  So it's sort of a closet room???

So what do you think?  I've spent the whole summer working on the plans, but I'm curious what your first thoughts are!

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