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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Wednesday, June 2, 2021

The Moment I've Been Waiting For....

At long last, spring has sprung in Maine.  And as the weather warmed up, it's been delightful to discover all of the amazing plantings around the yard.  It's such a treat to have so many flowering shrubs and plants.  That might be one reason why I like working on old houses so much - new construction always looks so sterile when the house is complete!  These plantings took decades to grow.

It started with forsythia as a bright yellow beacon in the front yard, the first hint that spring had arrived.  Soon the PJM rhododendrons started their vivid purple display.  

Next came the lilacs - 2 huge bushes, one in the front yard and one in the back, covered with fragrant purple blossoms.  It smells amazing!!!

Other plantings have also burst into bloom.  Aren't these variegated irises with lavender flowers beautiful?  So unusual!   

I'm not sure what the white flowers are, but they're a beautiful ground cover.  And don't you love the spirea? 

I have no idea what this ground cover is, but isn't it lovely?

But the thing I was most excited about?  To see the giant rhododendron hedge burst into bloom.  It's easily 50 feet long and many of the bushes are over 10 feet tall.  It stretches across the majority of the backyard, creating a stunning display.  Isn't it amazing? (try to ignore the tarps and building supplies)

The only problem?  You can't see it from the house.  Well, maybe if you look way to the right of the ugly garage, you can see a peek of it.    Or if you stand behind the garage, you can see it.  But the garage is really spoiling what could be a beautiful backyard.  And seriously, what view do you want from the house?

So that clinched the garage decision - it's got to go.  My excavator came out to take a look and it will be torn down.  I've started the permitting process and he's looking for a date on his calendar.

In the meantime, the asbestos shingles have been removed from the garage and taken away by Safe Environmental Solutions.  

With the shingles removed, we discovered that it's rotting from one side..... which might explain why it's leaning so much.  The sill is completely rotted away.  Now it's an even bigger eyesore - who would have thought that was possible? πŸ˜‚

It's not your imagination - it's leaning...... a lot!!!

But for now, I want to hang out behind the garage and savor that giant wall of blossoms before they disappear for the season!  It's a moment I've been waiting for an I want to enjoy every second! 

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