Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Romancing the Ranch - Progress Update

Opening up the ceiling
Let's talk about progress!!!  With the plans in place, the guys have started making changes.  Thanks to new structural beams, the walls have come out and the space has been opened up.  In a few short weeks, things have changed so much - I just had to share!  So here's a quick tour.

The new front entrance is framed up.  By stealing a bit of space from the oversized garage, we have created a true foyer/mudroom.   It has 10 foot tall ceilings and feels like a bright, welcoming space (well it will soon, those old stud walls are a bit dark!).
The new foyer has 10 foot ceilings, creating a dramatic entrance
Best of all, it gives you your first peek at the living space beyond (and the laundry room, maybe not quite as exciting, but it will be pretty sweet! ).

As you walk up a couple of steps, you step into the new, wide open living space.  Isn't this fantastic???  This may be the biggest, most open living space we've ever done.
But even more surprising is how much it's changed from our starting point.  Can you believe the difference?  We are keeping all the rooms in their original location, but removing walls (and a ceiling) transforms the space.  See the window on the left?  That's the only thing that didn't change (and we will be replacing it with a bigger one soon!).

And look at the ceiling height in the living room!!  I just love this room!
I LOVE tall ceilings!!!
Isn't the wall of windows/sliding doors looking out over the backyard fantastic?  We'll be expanding the deck and it will be a fabulous indoor/outdoor space.  Great for entertaining or just a quiet spot for a cup of coffee (or even better, a glass of wine).

I'll share details of the kitchen design in a later post, but it's going to be a big room with lots of storage.  See the old kitchen on the right??  And the fireplace on the left? Quite the transformation with those walls gone, don't you think?
Living room and kitchen before
Living room and kitchen after walls are removed
Of course we still need plumbing, electrical and we have to even up all those floors (because of course they are all different heights!).  But I'm tickled pink with the progress thus far.  Stay tuned for lots of updates!


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Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Curb Appeal for a 1950's Ranch Home

The front of this house is a bit nondescript.  It's not a bad looking house, but it seems like we could make it a lot more attractive, don't you think? Since we're making so many other design changes, we want to enhance the curb appeal as part of the project.

Here's our starting point.  
-Old, faded aluminum siding that has been painted yellow
-Vinyl siding in a different size on the main body of the house
-Roof shingles don't match
-Rarely used front door with 'Entrance' clearly marked over garage door
-Recessed alcove used for storing garbage cans

But what would look good?  I went digging through my file cabinet and dug out my 'exterior' file folder.  I found this inspiration post from a 2007 magazine (sometimes it's helpful to be a pack rat).  I love the crisp New England look of this home and think we can incorporate some of these ideas into the ranch.

Of course the new floor plan also requires some key changes.  The original front door goes away and the main house will have a second window added (actually, all the front windows will be updated to 'egress' windows to meet fire safety code).  And the new front door needs some highlighting.  So that's where we will focus a lot of our efforts.

The plan is to add a false gable above the new front door.  It will be a double gable, so the front door will be really noticeable.  Speaking of the front door, we will install a new one with lots of glass, to let the sunlight come streaming in.    I'll also install new front lights, new house numbers and a mailbox.  (oh and don't worry, the gorgeous maple tree will stay, I just had to hide it to play with the new facade plan)

The alcove between the garage and the main house will be closed in to create the new master bath.  I want some natural light in that bathroom, so we will add a small window.

This is my attempt to photo shop the new look.  It will look much nicer on the real house, but you get the idea!!
Front Entrance Mock-up
What else?  Well, we will be installing all new windows, matching roof shingles, a new front door and new trim.  The house will be completely re-sided.  I'm planning to use a  mock cedar shake in a blue-gray color called Pewter, but it will be vinyl - so absolutely no maintenance!  (did you know I used to be a vinyl siding snob?  Read about my conversion here)


Work has already started.  The front steps put up a fight, but they're gone.  And the guys finished framing up the master bath today.  Of course we have a lot to do in the next few months, but it will make such a difference!

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Thursday, June 18, 2020

Adding Some Romance to a Bland, Boring Ranch

Judging from this house, 1952 doesn't seem to have been a big year for architectural interest.  Maybe because this was the tail end of the Baby Boomer building phase, which focused on getting lots of homes built quickly for young growing families?   Like many houses of the period, this place doesn't have any unique architectural elements.   For example, the doors and moldings in the house are pretty basic - lauan and 1x4 trim.  Boring, boring, boring.....

Somehow we have to give this place some character!  I'd like to do a mix of old and new in this house, a few antique pieces as well as some more modern touches.  Luckily, I have some nice architectural things that have been stored away that should look pretty great.


Friends of ours did a major renovation of their 1880 shingle style home in the neighborhood several years ago.  I had long admired their newell post and balusters and when I discovered they weren't going to keep them, I begged them to let me reuse them.  Thankfully they were incredibly generous.  Since then,  I've been waiting for the perfect spot and finally found it!

The newellpost is pretty amazing - hand carved!  Oh and look at the balusters!!  There were only 9, so it's taken awhile to find a project with a short enough staircase to use them.  (and to make it more complicated, they are shorter than modern building code, so we will need to get creative when we install them).  But they are just gorgeous.  You know the saying, they don't make them like they used to!

They have a LOT of paint on them, layer on top of layer in multiple colors.  So I wanted to remove it to see the real beauty of the wood.  I loved the idea of hand stripping them, figuring it was the perfect pandemic pastime.  Just me working by myself in the garage.  And week one was great - it was calm and soothing and I really enjoyed it.  But these have so many layers of paint, it took multiple iterations of paint stripper.  You have to apply it, wrap everything in plastic and then wait several hours (or overnight) for the stripper to do its job.

By week two, it wasn't quite as stress relieving.  In fact, it was just the opposite.  Each baluster needs 3 separate applications of stripper, just to get through all those layers of paint.  And then the detailed work starts.  I needed dental tools to get into all the crevices - which is creating dental hygienist hand cramps on a regular basis.  Ugh!

And last week I hit the wall!!  I'd gone through two pair of the heavy duty stripping gloves (the stripper eventually eats through them), my fingerprints were obliterated after all the sanding and  I was waking up with a backache every morning from hours leaning over the workbench.  And I'd run out of my usual podcast assortment to listen to!!!




Thankfully, that's when the project turned the corner and this happened.  Can you believe how gorgeous this is?  I LOVE this so much!!!


Next I have to start refinishing them.  Current plan is a water based polyurethane.  Since this is oak, I don't want them to get too red - which typically happens with oil based sealers and poly.  See the difference in the photo below?  The water based product should give it a nice glow, while maintaining some of the antique patina that I worked so hard to expose.


I'm also going to repurpose an old exterior door that I have from a previous project.  It should be perfect for the new pantry!  And just my luck, it's also painted, but I was able to use a heat gun to quickly remove the majority of the paint from these flat surfaces.
Heat gun - took one hour to remove the paint!!!  Now it needs stripper to remove the rest.


And once it's back to its original finish, it needs a really special doorknob.  So I made a field trip down to Old House Parts in Kennebunk to see what I could find.  I love wandering around that place - so many amazing things to see!  


After scouting
around for awhile, I finally decided on an intricate bronze knob and backplate.  It should make a really nice statement for our pantry door!




What else?  I'd like to install some wood beams on the cathedral ceiling in the living room and dining room.  And of course we'll have some interesting light fixtures and the usual custom woodwork.  This place has so much potential, I can't wait to give it some romance!


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Thursday, June 11, 2020

The Ranch Transformation Plan

It's always fun to start creating a new project plan.  Many years ago, I came up with a standard approach to designing a project (click here) that focused on Safety, Energy Efficiency, Traffic Flow and Economics.

But this isn't a business as usual new project.  Suddenly, our world has been turned upside down and our needs are changing.  I've been doing a lot of reading and attending webinars to better understand what post-pandemic home design might look like.  All the experts seem to agree that homeowners will want some changes as we emerge from COVID-19 quarantine.  And as I look at their suggestions, many are features we would want anyway.  So I'm going to try and incorporate many of them in this project design.

But to give you an idea of what I've got planned, let's start with the 'as-is' floor plan.
As best I can tell, the original house was 670 square feet, built in 1952.  At some point a garage was added, but I can't tell when.  And in 1972, a big family room addition almost doubled the size of the house - and an enclosed breezeway connected the house with the garage.

Today it's a 2 bedroom house that seems a bit odd for today's lifestyle.  Many of the rooms are cramped and dark.  Attic insulation is awful.  The electrical system needs to be completely updated.  And the boiler died 10 days after we bought the house (in February!).  But we can change all that!

For the 'to-be' floor plan, I tried to incorporate some key elements tied to my standard approach.  And now we're adding some features for a post-pandemic world.

First, it will be a 3 bedroom home with two baths.  The old living room will be repurposed to create a master bedroom with an adjoining bath (en suite as they say on HGTV!).

Next, the living space needs to be much more open, to bring light into the kitchen and make it easier to move from room to room.  The current kitchen is so dark!  Opening it up will make a world of difference.

And this living space will be amazing!!! This may be the biggest open floor plan we have ever done.  The house appears so small from the street, but as you come inside, it's going to be a huge space with everything buyers want - a big kitchen with a large island, nice family dining area and a living room with a gas fireplace.

I know it's hard to tell this early, but this gives you an idea what it will be like.  As you walk into the house, you'll see the kitchen with the dining room beyond it and the wall of windows to the backyard

When the old wall is removed (it's load bearing, so we will be installing new engineered beams) this will be a seamless space.
Living Room and Dining Room - Kitchen is behind the open stud wall
It's such a big room!  And will appear even larger once we remove the old joists to expose the cathedral ceiling.  

  Styleblueprint
What else is planned?  Well, the original front door will be closed up and we will create a formal entrance on one side of the oversized garage.  That gives us the opportunity to create a big mudroom - a key feature for a post-pandemic home.  Everyone wants to remove their outerwear, including masks and gloves as soon as they get home.  Of course in Maine, a mudroom was already pretty critical, since we have lots of inclement weather and need a place to keep boots and winter gear.  I've started collecting inspiration for the mudroom.  Do you like this approach?  I love the curved supports.

And we're adding a first floor laundry room - yup, the washer and dryer are coming out of the old living room.  Won't that be a be a nice change?!  A dedicated laundry room is a bit of a luxury in an old house, so I'm really excited about it.  This will be a good sized room, with plenty of space for folding clothes, storage and more!

This means some existing walls need to come down, and some new walls need to be built.



One of the bigger projects is creating the new master bath.  The unusual exterior alcove will be enclosed to create a master bath, but that means we need to pour a frost wall (4 feet deep in Maine!) and get new exterior walls built.  And of course find a new place to keep the trash cans!!

And it's not shown on the drawings, but we will rebuild and enlarge the deck across the back of the house.  With all those sliding doors leading outdoors - we want to create seamless indoor/outdoor living.  And given our new pandemic living style, having outdoor entertaining space is a must!  Perfect for social distancing!

But what about the basement?  Well there is a lot of flexible space down there!  But it needs some serious updating.


Currently, the two 'quasi finished' rooms are separated by the utility room.  Our plan will open up the wall (it's a big job - that's a poured concrete wall from the original foundation!!) between those rooms to create a circular flow in the finished spaces.  No more wandering through the utility room to get to the back room!
Basement Floor Plan 

We will completely gut the basement rooms and redo them with new finishes, windows, electrical and lighting. Lots and lots of lighting!  How the new owners will use it is up to them, but it will be almost  800 square feet of living space!  The original house wasn't that big :-) This can be home office, playroom, or gee, there's room for a pool table or a home gym!

Is this a good post-pandemic floor plan?  It will certainly have a lot of great features for multiple family needs.  And it's a great size - what started as 1250 square feet on the first floor will become 1500 with the additional living space.  Add to that the 800 square feet in the basement and this will suddenly feel like a big home!

Now we just need to build it!



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Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Demo Time and First Peeks of New Open Space

Day 1 after purchase.....  Day 11 the boiler died.....
Ah, demo week (yup, this wasn't a day, it took a whole week!).  That's always a project milestone that gives me a knot in my stomach as I wait to see what nasty surprises we will find.

Yet we've already discovered some expensive issues with this house - the boiler died 10 days after we bought it (and attempts to resuscitate it failed),  the shower handle broke and leaked all over the bathroom a week after that and the attic only has 4 inches of insulation (see how the snow has already melted off the main roof?  That's a telltale sign of poor insulation).  So we have some big budget items to address.



But as demolition progresses, we always find new surprises.  Some good, some bad, and some that can change our game plan.
Demo team - ready for action!
First Surprise - was a big safety issue.  Evidently the dryer vent was somehow disconnected between the ceiling and the floor above it.  So for years, dryer lint was pumping into the space.  When the guys pulled back the ceiling tile, lint started raining down on them.  The entire space between the joists was packed tight with lint.  It's amazing they never had a fire!





Second Surprise - We had hoped there might be oak flooring under the laminate in the family room or the vinyl in the kitchen.  (That's what is in the living room and bedrooms)  But sadly, all we found was some stained pine and plywood.  That's a big budget hit.






Third Surprise - There was some evidence that there were problems with the electrical system.  I've never seen a house with so many extension cords!!  But as we pulled out walls and looked further, we discovered there isn't a single grounded outlet in the entire house.  That will never work for today's electronic needs.  Looks like we're going to have to rewire the entire house.  BIG budget hit #2
This may be a record for number of things plugged into one outlet from the ceiling
First peek of the open floor plan as the wall between the family room and kitchen is torn out.
This brightens up the kitchen as daylight comes through the opening!!
See the old windows in the wall?!


You never know what you might find behind the walls..... maybe this is why some of the walls are a bit wonky!

The demo team kept air filters running for days.  This was one morning's worth of air filtration.  Can you believe how filthy it is?

This air filtration system had an extra layer of filter on the outside - can you believe how gross it is?
Anybody need a 1974 calendar?  I did some checking and evidently you can reuse a calendar ever 6 years (28 years if it's Leap Year).  
The owner was obviously a heavy smoker.  We found a lot of cigarette butts and ash trays.  But also a LOT of nicotine stains.  See where the posters used to be taped to the wall?  That golden haze around them is nicotine build up.  And despite ripping out walls, ceilings and floors, I can still smell it.  Yuck! I'm hopeful now that we can open windows and air the house out, the smell will go away.  Some of the windows have a golden glow to them, so once they're replaced that should help as well.

Nicotine stains show were posters used to hang.  And yeah, that's another extension cord!
This is the wallpaper we found behind the paneling in the kitchen!  Which is better?  Dark paneling or wallpaper?  Tough choice!
What is Cedar Ware???
The basement clean out was a biggest task.  The bulk of the dumpster loads were from the basement.  The ceiling tiles and paneling reeked of cigarette smoke!
Now that demo is done, I can start to relax a bit - after I go back and revisit our budget!!!  Stay tuned for more updates as we start to put this place back together.  And don't you love how the open floor plan is starting to look!  It's a big space!
Look how big the living space is - now we need to remove that wall to the kitchen!
Removing the old kitchen wall lets so much sunlight in!


Kitchen looking towards future Dining Room
Can you believe how nice that basement is without all the stuff? 


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