Wednesday, August 4, 2021

And the Garage Came Tumbling Down!!!

 It took 3 minutes and 28 seconds and this tired old garage was history.  

Click below to see the video.  It's pretty fun! 

I agonized at the beginning of the project on whether to keep it.  After all, a garage in Maine is a precious commodity.  But as we started to look at it a bit more closely, we realized it was collapsing in on itself.  The structure was rotted on one side and slowly sinking into the earth.  That explained its odd tilt and the garage doors that wouldn't work anymore.

I felt like a little kid watching it come down!!!  So entertaining!

 Backyard view 'before' - the garage

So now it's been hauled away and suddenly this house has a great backyard.  As you walk in the front door, you can see out the French doors to the gorgeous rhododendron hedge that covers the back of the property.  It's particularly stunning in the spring, but provides a great evergreen screen all year long.
View from the back door - lots of space and greenery!

And if the new owners want a garage, they can build a new one.  I checked with the City and there is room to build one a bit closer to the street and closer to the back of the property.  So they get the convenience of a garage without losing precious outdoor living space.

Look at that yard!!! 

It's a pretty nice improvement, don't you think?

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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Outdoor Living Space - A New Deck!

COVID has made all of us value outdoor living space more than we did in the past.  I know the deck at our house felt like a lifeline to spend time with family and friends when it didn't feel safe to be indoors.  And now that we've all spent more time outdoors, we just seem to want more and more of it! 

So while this house had an okay little deck - the wood was really tired and it could be bigger to provide an extension of the living space.  And since we need to add stairs to the new back door, it suddenly made sense to just extend it to provide a nice big deck.

Deck - Before

A huge plus is that it's right off of the French doors from the dining room, so it's easy access - whether you're grilling something for dinner, having an al fresco meal or just want to hang out. (you do have a view of the ugly garage, but spoiler alert, that should be changing soon πŸ˜€)

So here's a sneak peek of the progress.  See how big it is, by extending all the way to the end of the house?  Such a nice feature for the new homeowners!

It will be trimmed out in PVC, so no maintenance!!  And the lattice should help keep any critters from making a home under the deck. 

Railing and stairs will wait a few more weeks - so they won't get damaged

We started using this composite decking at our last project.  It's made right in Biddeford, Maine so it has a low carbon footprint.  And it's super durable.  I've heard from folks in the neighborhood that used it - and they said it really held up well!

The guys did a great job of saving the daylilies that line the front of the deck.  I love that spot of orange color, even if it's only for a few weeks. 

The final stairs and handrail won't go in for awhile - they would just get messed up from all the contractor's equipment.  We want them to look nice and pretty for the new owners.   But it's already looking pretty good!


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Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Vintage Style - Lighting Plan

One of the goals of this project was to honor the vintage charm of this house.  Bungalows are such a wonderful part of the American architectural story, it would be a shame to turn it into something sleek and modern looking.  It needs to retain its original style.  

But we didn't have any original lighting in the house.  Much of it looked like 50's or 60's style - with pull chains, since there weren't many wall switches.  So I started looking around for something that would be appropriate to the age of the house.

For the existing bedrooms, I came across these fantastic glass shades on Etsy.  Don't you love the sunflower style?  They're super heavy with both frosted and shiny glass elements.  I don't know how old they are, but they have that vintage charm I was looking for.

They came from different sellers - one with mounting hardware, the other sold just the shade.  But I knew Brian at the Lamp Repair Shop in South Portland could help me.  He crafted another hanger, so both lights will look the same.  

For the little hallway to the bedrooms, there was a sconce with an electrical outlet built in - which is a no-no for modern building codes.  So I did some searching and came across this vintage style light.  Isn't it pretty?

These pendants will be great over the farmhouse sink.

And the piece de resistance?  The dining room chandelier.  I found this at Home Remedies and knew it would be perfect.  It's part of the William Morris collection and features his design cut into the metal shade.  It will also cast such a pretty pattern on the walls!

While I love all these vintage style lights, I also want good lighting for everyday living.  So in most of the house we've included recessed lighting that will be on dimmers to provide whatever light levels the new owners want.

Lighting is one of the very last elements to get installed as we finish the house, so it will be awhile before they all get hung.  But it's fun to start pulling them out of the boxes to visualize them in the space! #easilyentertained

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Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Creating a Bathroom in a Bungalow Dormer

We're making lots of updates to this Basic Bungalow, but the biggest is creating a primary suite in what was originally an unfinished attic.  That involved adding 2 large dormers, to provide more living space, light and ventilation.  The larger dormer will be the new bedroom space.  And the smaller dormer will create a bathroom.  

I really want to make this bath special.  It's got great 'bones'.  The big engineered beam that holds up the gabled ceiling will be clad in reclaimed lumber.  And that angled ceiling gives the room so much character!  There are two awning windows that can remain open to provide air circulation, even on a rainy day (and we've had quite a few of them lately).  
This is entirely new space - created by adding a dormer in the hip roof.

But beyond the bones of the room, it will have lovely finishes.  The inspiration for the room is William Morris (one of my all time favorite designers, he's often called the Father of Arts & Crafts design).  I'm using his thistle pattern fabric for window treatments.  

You can't go wrong with William Morris designs

And that deep blue will be highlighted on the back of the shower with these glass tiles.  They'll provide a pop of color to the room.  The shower will have a custom glass door surrounding it.  And the print from the Victoria & Albert exhibit will go on the wall.

The floor?  Well I am absolutely crazy about this marble floor, with its 3 shades of marble hexagons.  It's a real show stopper!
The floor has started to get installed - swoon swoon!!!

Once the floor is complete, we'll install this vanity.   The natural wood will compliment the reclaimed wood beam on the ceiling with its natural finish.  And don't you love that sink?
Photo:  Wayfair

We've started all the finishing touches in the bathroom.  Hopefully I'll have some more progress shots to share soon.  Stay tuned!

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Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Progress Update: Insulation, Walls and Windows! It's Looking Like a House!

So much has happened lately, I have to bring you up to date!   Everything is starting to come together to make this house a home.  Here are the highlights.

Insulation:  Because of the big freeze and subsequent power outages in Texas last winter, the raw materials for insulation have been in short supply.  After an 8 week lead time, we finally got the go ahead.  With our cold Maine winters, we take insulating pretty seriously.  This house had almost no insulation, so this will be a HUGE upgrade!

The guys used closed cell spray foam for the 2nd floor ceilings.  It has the highest 'R' value (6.5 per inch, almost double the value of fiberglass) you can get, which is great in an old attic with less space.  It also provides air sealing and additional structural strength.  But it's not an easy job, particularly at the bottom of the attic eaves.  Imagine wearing a bunny suit, respirator and spraying a product that heats up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit on a warm summer day?  

We also used spray foam in the basement.  This will give added warmth in the winter and reduce condensation on hot, humid summer days.

For the walls, we choose dense pack cellulose.  This is a fabulous solution because it's made from recycled newspapers and also provides a nice sound barrier from exterior noise.  The guys install a fabric mesh on the walls and then pump in the cellulose with a high pressure hose.

We were able to cut holes in most of the interior walls  to provide a place to pump in cellulose- but where we had radiators in the way, the guys needed a different approach.  They went outside and drilled holes behind the siding, filled the walls and plugged the holes with styrofoam plugs.

Yeah..... the siding can use a bit of cleaning!  It's on the to-do list!

Walls:  Drywall was delivered (it was easy on the 2nd floor since the windows weren't delivered yet!) and work got started.  It was a challenging job with all of our crazy angled ceilings, but the guys got it done pretty quickly.  This changed the whole look and feel of the house almost overnight!

Windows:  Yes, after a 16 week wait, the windows finally arrived.  And I have to admit, it was totally worth the wait.  The new kitchen window is such a huge improvement - the original one was a regular double hung window, mounted sideways!!!  This new glider window looks and works great!

Prepping for new glider window

But my favorite is the giant triple window in the new en suite bedroom.  There is an amazing view out the window and all that glass lets in so much light.  It's a fantastic change!

And it gives the house so much character from the exterior.

Paint Primer:  Last, but not least, the new walls all got a nice coat of white primer.  This makes the whole space feel so much more cohesive, but also sets us up to get all the trim work started.  

And just as a teaser - take a look at how much the house has changed. 

This won't be a full Open Concept floor plan - but the kitchen and dining room are perfect!

Pathetic insulation is gone - new dormers make it livable!

We're ready to start finish work now - stay tuned for the pretty stuff πŸ˜‚!!

Quick Note:  For those of you that receive these updates via email, Google has decided to delete that function sometime in July.  They will not be replacing the functionality.  So unfortunately, you won't receive regular updates.  But be sure and check back each week, I'll continue providing posts!  

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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Chimney Challenges

I get to learn the most interesting things as part of my job.  For example, did you know that masonry folklore says that an old chimney will always lean in the direction of the sea?  That’s certainly true on our project – our chimney is shaped like a banana that leans towards Casco Bay!  The more scientific reasoning for this is that the old mortar wears away, little by little, thanks to prevailing winds, salt water and coastal storms. 90+ years of nor’easters have taken their toll!


Thankfully the banana shape isn’t a structural problem for us, but old chimney guru Dana Larrabee suggested we completely repoint it, tighten up the lead flashing and then clean and waterproof the whole thing. 


It was a pretty big job and pretty fascinating to watch over a period of days.  The old mortar came out in clouds of dust.  Turns out that was the quick part of the job.  

Each joint had to be refilled and shaped – a painstaking job that took hours.  Once that was complete, they allowed it to set for a week and cure.

The following week they gave it a wash to clean it up, did a thorough chimney cleaning of the interior and then waterproofed it to protect all that hard work.  Now we still have the banana shape, but it’s ready for the next 90+ years!

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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

A New Bathroom for Benny

My daughter has a problem πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚  She’s never met a needy animal she didn’t think she could help, particularly puppies with mobility problems.  Over the years, she’s rescued and fostered countless critters (some are foster failures that still live on the Tucker Farm) and loves every minute of it. 

But her latest foster, Benny, is a special case.  His breeder realized there was a problem at birth and surrendered him.  Beth thought she could start with aqua therapy to strengthen his legs and get him up and going.  But that didn’t seem to make a difference.  She took him to a group of specialists and learned he has a congenital spinal deformation that has paralyzed his back legs.  Here’s a video from that might help explain it better.  The amazing thing about Benny?  Despite all of his challenges, he's the happiest little guy you could ever meet!


Benny (and most of the fosters) spends time in the family bathroom when he isn't being supervised.  But with Benny’s special needs, the slippery floor just isn’t working.  In addition, this house was a really bad flip (we nicknamed it the Little Farm of Horrors for good reason - see just how bad it was here) and the grout is literally falling apart and tiles are cracking.  As you can imagine, with 'accidents', the floor is pretty gross.  Certainly not a good place for Benny or any future puppy to hang out.

So….. they need a new bathroom floor.  They got a quote of $8,000 to redo the tile – which is way beyond their budget.  And I bet you can guess how they can reduce that cost. 😁 Yup, my tile saw is going on a road trip! 

With material shortages so acute everywhere, I had to do the design from afar and order everything to be there when we arrived.  It's a bit tricky, since I can't be there to look at exact colors and style.  But they gave me full design decision authority, so that made it a bit easier.  Since they live on a farm, farmhouse style made logical sense.  But this is a real farmhouse with 2 kids, 6 dogs and constant foster animals - so sturdy surfaces are a must.   

 Tile - Home Depot 
First choice is a marble look porcelain tile, to make life easier for Benny.  I found this on the Home Depot website - $5.02 a square foot – that’s our kind of price!  It’s a matte, non-slip surface and since they’re large tiles, there won’t be as much grout to maintain.


Next, they need a new vanity - the contractor grade one that came with the house is literally falling apart.  And for this design we wanted a wood vanity.  Sure they like white painted cabinetry (like everyone else), but it tends to chip and show wear and tear.  Benny's wheelchair can do some damage!  A natural wood finish can take an occasional ding and it won’t show.  This one from Wayfair should fit the bill and it’s pretty gorgeous!  I got it during their Memorial Day sale for $1,250, so a bit pricey, but it’s the perfect fit to replace the one that’s there, which minimizes plumbing costs.

Vanity Photo - Wayfair

Time for a new vanity - this one is falling apart

Everything was shipped and miracle of miracles, it all arrived ahead of schedule!!!  Truly amazing in the current environment of shipping delays.  

5 screws in this tile wonder it failed!
So we got to work.  We really wanted to solve a mystery - why did this floor fail?  It's only 6 years old, so should still be in great shape.  Demo Day quickly solved the mystery.  A good tile job requires a good underlayment.  That's typically two layers of wood, with tile backer screwed through both layers.  We found one layer of 1/2" plywood and tile backer with only 4-6 screws in each sheet (the manufacturer recommend 28 screws per sheet - so this was pathetic!).  No wonder this floor failed.

That meant before we could even start putting down the floor, we needed to add another layer of tongue and groove plywood, topped with a layer of 1/4 cement board.  And you guessed it, we screwed it according to the manufacturers directions.

We got the whole family involved with the tile job - all three generations!  Doesn't everyone want to learn to do tile work?

And yet somehow, our daughter started cocktail hour while we were still working!!   

What's wrong with this picture?  Someone started cocktail hour early!

While the floor had to be a bit utilitarian to meet Benny’s needs, we wanted to jazz up the bathroom with the shower tile.  We found this at Floor and DΓ©cor, for a very affordable price.  
The majolica pattern is classic and the blue adds a nice pop of color to the room.  But because it’s so bold, we only used it for an accent wall – the rest of the shower was done it a large format, white subway.


I had big expectations for the blue tile – but it really blew all of us away.  Doesn’t it look AMAZING???  


We painted the back wall a paler shade of the same blue, to draw it out even more and keep the room from being too white and sterile. (Sherwin Williams Favorite Jeans - SW 9147). Doesn't it look great with the oak vanity???

And that shower tile really makes the room!

It took 10-12 hours a day, for 5 days to get the basics in place.  Whew!  With the tile job done and plumbing fixtures reassembled, we’re heading back to Maine.  The kids can complete the finishing touches (we had hoped to reuse the mirror, but it broke in dramatic fashion!!!). 

I promise we’ll have photos of the full Before & After to share soon!  But these will give you an idea how much it has changed!  Benny has a pretty nice room now!
And life is good at the Tucker Farm! 
Foster pony Tango and friends


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