bardicvoice (bardicvoice) wrote,

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Real Life: Home remodeling diary, days 1-9

If you’re only interested in my Supernatural posts, please just bypass this one: there’s nothing supernatural about it. This post is all about the remodeling of my house, with links to photos. This one covers the first nine days of work, across a little over two weeks. The day number provides a link to the photos from that day.

I'm redoing the entire place, replacing the carpeting with hardwood; putting new ceramic tile floors in the kitchen, powder room, front foyer, master bath, and under the laundry machines; pulling out an Alpine fireplace and installing an entertainment wall in its place; replacing the tub in the master bath with a walk-in shower with a seat; getting new kitchen countertops and appliances; getting new vanities in the powder room and master bath; installing recessed lighting in the kitchen and living room; wiring the living room for a home theater system; moving walls to situate my sauna between the kitchen and dining room (I don't have a basement); putting in a pocket door for the powder room; and replacing my old skylight with a new efficient one.  The work is being done by Elegant Home Services, Inc., out of Chantilly, VA.

Here are some photos of my house before the remodeling work.  Alas, I didn't document the whole place; I don't think I have photos of the master bath, for example.  There are a few shots of the unaltered master bedroom in the work in progress albums.

Here are photos of the granite warehouse and the selections I made for my house.  You can also see my designer Josh, his assistant Raquelle, and Ali, a stonecutter in the warehouse.

Day One

Thursday June 25 brought the remodeling crew and the POD for as much of my stuff as I could move out of the house. By the end of the day Thursday, I'd put in over 14,000 steps, and for 5.5 miles of that, I never even left home; it was all up and down the stairs carrying boxes to load into the POD. Whew!

My crew is fun. The crew boss is Alfredo, a middle-aged construction engineer. The senior laborer is Rubil, a Cuban carpenter/painter in his late twenties or early thirties who goes by Rubi. His trainee is Carlito, a young Salvadoran who has no English. I'm starting to get my Spanish back! The job manager is Stuart, a comfortably laid-back guy who says he’ll be by almost every day and will report to me via email on each day's progress when I'm not present to see it for myself.

Day one saw all but two rooms stripped of carpet. My bedroom still has carpeting, and should keep it until the guest bedroom is done so I can move into it. I'm desperately glad to have one place where I can take my shoes off, because the rest of the place is a trap run of staples, nails, splinters, and dust! Day one also saw the ugly floor tiles removed from the powder room.


Day Two

Day two saw the removal of the dining room carpet, the fireplace and wall treatment, and the kitchen and foyer floors. (I'm glad I was at the Red Cross this afternoon, because I wasn't slammed with the pounding breakup of the foyer tile!) Alfredo also cut back the kitchen/dining room wall and knocked out the lowered beam between the two rooms, which indeed proved to be empty, someone's oddball idea of a design feature. I suddenly have more room!! It wasn't until we got the fireplace out and I stood where it had been that I really appreciated how much space it had consumed. That thing stuck out a third of the way into the living room!

And it's a bloody good thing that I made the decision to remove the fireplace as part of replacing the carpet: in an amazing example of idiocy, the fireplace and wall treatment had been built ON TOP OF THE ORANGE CARPETING!!!! Had I tried to replace the carpeting without taking out the fireplace, I'd have discovered that it couldn't be done cleanly. We all looked at that and shook our heads.

Day Three

The latest update from the destroyed house ... *grin*

No work was done on Saturday, but they delivered the primer and paint and the first try at the walk-in shower unit. Alas, the unit wasn't quite the right one. It was by Sterling (which is a Kohler company) and included the integrated shelving I was looking for (in a snap-together, groutless design!), but it lacked the integrated seat I wanted. They're trying to track down the right one now.

When I came home today (Monday), I found the master bath completely disassembled. The tub and all the tile are gone. The vanity is sitting next to my bed.

All of the baseboards are now gone, except for the still-carpeted master bedroom. The wallpaper came off the walls in the living room, the library, and the powder room, and the revelations beneath were a scream! Under the grasscloth paper, the back living room wall was the same brilliant orange as the fireplace! They left one strip of paper up, and the contrast is pretty dramatic. Underneath the wild paper, the powder room had been painted a bright, bright sun-yellow. The library, however, was a dull nothing under the paper that had been on the wall behind the bookshelves we built.

The guys also pulled out the frame from the doors into the kitchen. They'd taken off the doors on Friday. The powder room still has a door, but I don't know for how much longer. I'm expecting that I'll see holes in my living room and kitchen ceilings sometime this week for the recessed lighting.

I didn't do anything much on the house on Saturday, because that was my bumming around day. Sunday was another day of walking miles without leaving home, hauling more stuff out to the POD. My next door neighbor Cindy very kindly is hosting all of my artwork and my harp, so all of that is safe.

Day Four

Well, today looks like it was moderately peaceful at my house. The big changes are that the chimney flue has been cut back up between the floors (I can't see up into it, but the plan was to pack it as full of insulation as possible to eliminate any heat/cool loss); the electrical outlets and switches from the cut-back kitchen/dining room wall have been moved and reboxed; and the living room wall that will become the entertainment center (and used to be the fireplace wall) has been stripped back to studs and two-by-fours in anticipation of the new drywall and the out-build to flush mount the HDTV and hide all the wiring. Woot! The outlets in the powder room were also taken off, there are a couple of holes in the powder room walls where the towel bar and toilet roll used to be, and the cable run we did to bring cable to the living room has been removed, so no more black cable snaking over the kitchen entrance and down the powder room wall.

Tonight, most of my not-immediately-essential clothing on hangers got exiled to the POD. Tomorrow night, the last of the stuff lying around the master bedroom/closet and the library floor will get stuffed into whatever and hauled down to the POD, and then I will be done with what I can do. The POD will get picked up some time on Thursday; I should find out the three hour window sometime tomorrow.

Day Five

More fun! The guys today skimmed the formerly wallpapered walls in the living room and powder room to clear off the glue residue. They also got the wallpaper off the kitchen wall on the sink side; that stuff is obviously tenacious! They patched the holes in the drywall in the powder room and put in fresh drywall to close off the cut-back wall and ceiling beam between the kitchen and dining room and the living room ceiling where the fireplace had been.

Stuart dropped by this evening to talk through mounting the television in/on the entertainment wall. The mount will be an extendable one, so if I need to service the set, I'll be able to pull it forward out of the wall. They create a box around the set with airspace to allow heat to escape, and to insulate the drywall from the higher temperature generated by the electronics. I need to go buy longer connection cables, since the cables will run behind the wall to the control box where I'll plug in all the components – DVD player, TiVo, audio receiver and speakers. We took some measurements to figure out where the box will go.

It looks as if my shower receptor will be Kohler's Memoirs design; you can see it here: The surrounding walls will be tiled all the way to the ceiling.

Stuart had a suggestion about the washer/dryer area: to pull out the old frames from the folding doors I exiled years ago, remove the overlapping Roman shades I put in to hide the machines when I have guests, open the alcove all the way up to the ceiling, put in cabinets up top to contain and hide the detergent, bleach, and whatnot other laundry and cleaning supplies I stock, and then put in a long shelf just above the washer and dryer (being who he is, he automatically assumed it would be a quartz remnant!) to provide a sorting and folding table right out in the open. Yum! I told him to give me a cost estimate on adding that in.

I have enough space to keep a sufficiency of clothes on hand. My dressers are staying, and I have a wardrobe box in which I can stash hanging stuff. The real joy is that we're on casual dress for the summer, so I can actually get away with wearing t-shirts to work! I kept a few nice shirts and a couple of my lightweight dressy jackets for those occasions when I might actually have to look official, but I don't think I should really have any of those for the next month.

Day Six

Okay: work on the house got back underway in a big way today, after the days off for the Fourth of July. I came home to find the side wall ripped out on the powder room, preparatory to installation of the pocket door; the drywall above the washer and dryer ripped out to open the way for the new cabinets; and the steps closed in with risers, with the noses of each step shaved off in preparation for getting the hardwood bullnoses installed. Wheee! The pocket door was delivered today, along with the replacement Velux skylight. I approved the proposed recessed lights for the living room (which use compact fluorescent lights), but the kitchen ones are being traded out for the more energy efficient ones I want. Tomorrow the guys will cut the holes for the recessed lights and will open up the wall in the stairwell to check for water damage to the wood and drywall way up there. They'll check the weather forecast before choosing the date for pulling the skylight and replacing it with the new one. Alfredo will also rough in the arch for the kitchen, and they'll wire the living room for the stereo/television speakers and for the ceiling fan, and build the wall box for the television. We set the height tonight, so I know exactly where the television will go (the bottom of the set will be 42 inches off the slab, and the set will be centered in the wall). The mount is going to be a scissor arm that will let me pull the set out of the wall for maintenance and to clean the box a few times a year. There will be a half-inch opening all the way around the set to provide access to pulling the set out. The inside of the box will be painted a matte black so there will be no shadows, and the set will simply appear to float within the wall.

Josh, Raquelle, Alfredo, and their A/V guy, Paris [ETA on 7/13/09: Paris is a lot more than the A/V guy; turns out his title is Director of Operations!], were all over at my house for a couple of hours tonight, from 18:30 to 20:30, to walk me through the decisions on wiring the living room, placing the television, figuring out what additional cabling I will need (I had already ordered and gotten my long HDMI and audio cables to hide behind the wall), and for Josh to go over the plans for the laundry area. I'm going to have a LOT more storage space all of a sudden, because the new cabinets above the washer and dryer will be able to hold more than the detergent, bleach, fabric softener, and whatnot supplies! I've always used that shelf to also hold things like the extra bathroom cleaning products; now I'll have more room for things like toilet tissue. Wheee! Right above the washer and dryer will be a quartz slab shelf, so I'll have a sorting and folding surface right there. The quartz will likely be a grey to coordinate with the walls; the cabinets will be stained to match the hardwood floors. (The new vanity and the hanging cabinet in the master bath will also likely be stained to match the hardwood floor.)

I think we may be adding one more piece to the overall; I'm leaning toward building in smoked glass-doored shelves for my TV/stereo component pieces, together with storage for DVDs, right where the control box will be on the wall between the living room and dining room. That idea came up this evening, when we were looking at all the A/V setup. Josh will play with it and let me know what it would cost.

Day Seven

This one's going to be short, because I'm done in. The crew was busy again today; I came home to find the pocket door mostly installed on the powder room, holes in the living room ceiling for the recessed lighting, the frame for the television mounting box constructed into the wall framing, and a lot of wall and ceiling area on both floors prepped for painting. Nothing has happened on the skylight yet, or on the high walls in the stairwell. But there's a load of drywall leaning against the house in the back yard ... It also looks as if the lights are here for the living room and kitchen.

Day Eight

Well, today I came home to find recessed lights lighting up the kitchen, speaker and electrical wire snaked through holes in the living room ceiling, drywall ripped out just beneath the skylight and in the stairwell, more wall primed, and more work done on finishing construction on the pocket door to the powder room. These guys are really booking!

The dust and dreck factor everywhere is wearing on me; even the guest bathroom has become unsuitable for bare feet, since that's the only fully functional bathroom at the moment and the guys are tracking stuff in on their shoes. In a couple more days, I'm going to give up on the kitchen entirely and eat out all the time. It's hard to clean counters or dishes when your dishcloths are rife with drywall dust!

I hit the MyerEmco warehouse sale to pick up an AV receiver and speakers for the home theater setup. The receiver’s a Yamaha and the speakers are Definitive.

Day Nine

The wood for my floors was delivered today! It's piled up in long skinny boxes in the corner of the kitchen, beginning to acclimate to the house.

Rubil was sanding patched walls upstairs (more dust!) and Alfredo and Carlito were working mostly in the living room, although they also patched the ceiling in the kitchen to close the hole from the old long fluorescent fixture. They finished the box in the wall for the television, closed in the rest of that wall, set in the recessed lights, and patched most of the holes in the walls and ceiling where all the electrical and speaker wires run ... but there's a little problem: the recessed light cans are too shallow for the compact fluorescent bulbs, which are sticking out below the level of the ceiling. Oops. Back to the drawing board on that one. The other problem that cropped up is that the skylight that came was actually the wrong size; it's a little wider than my current one, but it isn't as long. Oops again! The replacement for that one will be delivered next week Wednesday, so the skylight and roof work had to be postponed. The guys took away most of the plastic that had been draped over the furniture downstairs, I think because it was so dusty that it would have created problems when they try to paint!

I ordered my living room ceiling fan through Dulles Electric. I went for the Energy Star-certified Civic by Craftmade. You can see the style here: Mine will have the brushed nickel motor mated with custom cherry wood blades. Craftmade built the lovely ceiling fan I have in my bedroom, so I know and trust the quality of their products. It will run on a simple four-speed wall control.

I’m still not finding good light fixtures for the dining room and kitchen breakfast nook. With help from my friend Amy, I picked up two matching lights today at Lowe’s, but I think I may reconsider and take them back. The model was presented in the display as being Energy Star, but a review of the box and documentation demonstrate that it’s not. I’m fed up with light shopping, truly. Grrrrr.

To be continued ...

Tags: real life, remodeling project

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