2015 Blog Stats

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 55,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 20 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Making the Grade

I can’t remember if I mentioned it on here or not, but when we bought the flip house (I need to come up with a better code name for it–let me know if you have any suggestions), there was about an inch or two of water in the basement. 

  
The previous occupants had cut out the boiler before leaving and, we think, attempted to remove the water heater. But the water heater ruptured in the process and they just left it, ya know, so it could slowly leak all over the basement. 

Well, as you may recall, we hired a crew to clean out the basement and scrub it all down. We also installed a new sump pump, got a new boiler and water heater, and put in a lot of new plumbing. 

     
   

 

Now that the basement was dry, we could see if there were any other sources of moisture down there. Given that this is Western NY and the ground is pretty damp/wet all the time, we wanted to see if there were any issues with the walls or windows leaking down there, especially when it rains.  And so during a couple different rainstorms we went over to check it out. The good news? There was nothing major happening on the inside. The not-so-good news? We noticed that water was pooling outside against the foundation. Years of neglect had caused the ground to erode by the foundation. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

   
 
You see how there’s a line where the paint ends? Well, the paint ends there because the ground used to be that high. The first pic is of the front of the house and the second is in the driveway on the side of the house. That shows how the concrete has dipped, a different issue really, and one we’ll tackle in the future, but it goes to the same point: instead of the ground around the outside of the house sloping away from the house, it was instead sloping towards it. And we needed to fix that.  Here’s some before shots of the side of the house (this is actually I did quite a bit of work clearing out overgrown stuff, but I don’t have a true before shot):

 
  
And here’s what it looked like once we spread out a bunch of free fill we found on Craigslist:

   
 
   
    
 Much better, right? You might have also noticed that we removed the ugly roll-out window shades that were like dirty green headbands on all the windows.  About time, eh?

More fill was put in around the back of the house as well. This shot shows a comparison between day one and after Mr. Bunches and I did some serious cleaning up, but before the fill was added:

  
And some shots post-fill and grading:

   
    
 
That was 3 pick-up trucks of fill. There’s probably room for another two truckfuls but now that the winter weather has finally arrived, it looks like we might wait until spring. For the time being at least we’ve got the majority of the areas surrounding the house properly graded away from the foundation. 

Another update that has come and gone: our dumpster! Despite hiring a cleanup crew to empty the basement, we still had a lot of junk to part with. Particularly with all the demo work Mr. Bunches did. And so we had a 30-yard dumpster delivered to the house:

   
    
And Mr. Bunches made short work of filling it . . . 

 
He completely cleaned out the garage. Ahhh–emptiness=awesomeness. 

   
    
The dumpster also came in handy when we started clearing out the yard and discovered all manner of treasures . . .

    
    
   
We completely filled that dumpster in only a few weeks and now it’s been hauled away. Good riddance, right?!

In the meantime, lots of progress happening on the inside. Update soon!

  

We have light!

Once all the walls in the kitchen and bath came down, we had to quickly figure out the electric situation. We knew we needed a new panel. Why? Well, because we had 1950s fuses, similar to this:

  

So we had to upgrade to a circuit breaker box and we figured we would increase the amps while we were at it. 

Mr. Bunches had 3-4 electricians come out to give us quotes on a lot of electrical work. Before the first one arrived, though, we made a plan of everything we wanted done. I even created a detailed list so that we could give it to the electricians and also know that we weren’t forgetting anything:

  
This list is actually shorter than it started–Mr. Bunches found that the original list seemed to scare away some of the electricians. One guy looked at it and said the kitchen alone would cost $8,000-$10,000. To say we had a little panic attack would be putting it mildly. But we just kept getting more electricians in to look at the work and eventually got some real quotes.  

When we were getting quotes, we didn’t know if all the wiring in the kitchen needed to be replaced or not. Here’s a reminder of what it all looked like with the walls down (note all the criss-crossing wires in the ceiling):

  

  

Some of the electricians told us that the whole house basically needed to be rewired. Why?  Because the way these old houses were wired, everything was connected. So there could be an outlet in the kitchen connected to an outlet across the house in one of the bedrooms–taking out the kitchen wiring would mean potentially knocking out the power in the rest of the house. Good to know. 

Most of the electricians came in with pretty similar quotes: $2,800-$3,500 just to replace the panel, and then $2,000-$3,000 for the rest of the work. Ouch. I suggested that we get one last quote from the electrician that did work on our house when we first moved in. Mr. Bunches agreed and we were shocked at how low their cost was: only $2,800 for everything! And they were able to book us the following week. Sold!

Now, I know a lot of you are thinking to yourselves, ‘Okay, there’s probably a good reason this company is so cheap and available. C’mon Bunches–this isn’t amateur hour! You should know why too.’ And we agree–we were prepared to be on top of the situation, but we also knew that that the work required a town inspection, so we figured that whatever we missed, the town inspector would catch. And, spoiler alert, so far there haven’t been any major catastrophes.  Minor ones? Uh, yeah. 

First of all, to be up to code, the new electrical line coming into the house has to be 13′ off the ground. Our house is a ranch, so that means the electricians had to add a big pole to get to the required height. Every electrician we met with, including the ones we hired, said they would put it on the side of the house by the garage as that would be the least conspicuous spot. So what happened? Well, Mr. Bunches and I were both tied up at work the day that they installed the new panel, meter, and pole, so when we checked out their work that night we found this:

   
 
They took the path of least resistance and put the meter on the back of the house, directly between the door to the sunroom and the back door to the garage. Annoyed doesn’t quite begin to describe how we were both feeling.  It’s just not what we had in mind. 

  
At this point, it was too late to move it (they had already drilled a hole in our roof and everything), so we just took it as a learning moment and moved on. The lesson? Always be present at the house when big things are happening. 

The next phase was the rewiring of the kitchen. Mr. Bunches and I both spent time with the owner of the company, and his workers, going through everything we wanted done. The owner drew on the studs and placed empty electrical receptacles as markers for where things should go. This gave us some comfort but we still knew it was a lot of work and they might need some hand-holding along the way. Some was an understatement. 

The owner ripped out all the old wiring in the kitchen prior to his guys starting the work. He did the same in the bathroom. The electricians then came in and put in all the new wiring in the kitchen and bath, including new recessed lighting in the kitchen. They “finished” the work while we were out of town for a week. And yes “finished” is in quotes for a reason. When we got back to town we had the owner over and he confirmed that, in fact, they were far from finished. Not only was none of the new wiring tied into the new panel, but there wasn’t a single outlet in the whole house that worked! When the owner ripped out all the old stuff in the kitchen and bath, he had basically cut off power to the entire house (because everything was connected). Thank goodness Mr. Bunches tested everything! 

So what happened? Well, we basically got the entire house rewired for the original quoted price. We’ve actually only paid them $1,800 so far because they have to finish the work (put on the outlets and switches) after the drywall is done. As of now, we’re happy with the work. The owner made a mistake by tearing out all the old wiring before really understanding how it was all connected, but the electricians who did the work actually did a decent job. And the price can’t be beat. 

With the first phase of the electrical work done, the kitchen looked like this:

  

  

  

  

 

And did you notice the biggest change? The one that prompted the title of this post? We have light!!

   

 

We added four recessed can lights in the ceiling. There really isn’t any natural light in the kitchen since the window and Dutch door both open to the sunroom so we knew we needed more lighting.  In the pictures above only two of the new lights have light bulbs. So it doesn’t do it full justice, but it’s still so nice to finally be able to see in there. And you may have also noticed the new plumbing for the sink:
  
Our contractor extraordinaire, Steve, took care of that for us. He’s also been super busy of late. Ever since the electricians finished Phase 1, he’s been busy putting in insulation and laying drywall. The space is really starting to look transformed. Update pics coming soon!

Kitchen Mood Board

We have a plan! 

  

  1. White subway tile with light grey grout as a backsplash, and possibly on one entire wall (still undecided)
  2. Drawer/cabinet pulls (similar to these from Home Depot)
  3. Kitchen cabinets, the Thomasville line from Home Depot in Cottage Maple White and the shaker-style doors
  4. Granite countertops, also from Home Depot (I forget the name, but once I put in the order then I’ll update this)
  5. Exalt flooring in cherry oak (luxury vinyl tile–we’re using this throughout the entire house except for the bathroom)
  6. MOEN Lindley pull down faucet in spot resist stainless (when we got quotes from plumbers they all recommended MOEN or Delta faucets since they work well and are easy to repair, so that limited our options a bit). The faucet won’t have the base plate shown in the picture. 

The sink will be stainless steel undermount (apparently if you order your counters and cabinets from Home Depot, then they throw in an 18-gauge stainless sink for “free” so I figured why not). 
Appliances will be stainless steel and I’ll do a separate post about those–I’m currently in the process of trying to find the best deal and comparing prices but the purchase will be made this week so then I’ll break it all down. 

For the layout of the kitchen, this is the almost-final design:

   
   
Sorry that some of the walls look curved–those are phone pictures of paper printouts that had been folded up so I didn’t get them laying smooth before snapping pictures.  Oops. 

I say that it’s the almost-final design because nothing is final until the installers from Home Depot come out to do the measurements (a $99 fee that later is credited towards the cost of the cabinets). But I’m pretty sure it will be very close to that design. 

The only things that are off in the rendering are the window and the doorways. The wall with the range actually continues to the left of the range and the wall with the fridge is longer as well. Basically, the doorway in the back of this photo is the only opening on that side of the kitchen. 

  
I used Home Depot’s in-store designer services to plan out the kitchen. The designer was great and she also filled me in on Home Depot’s regular “sales”–basically the Thomasville cabinets alternate between being on sale (15% off) and full-price every two weeks. And the granites also have a rotation for which ones are on sale. So basically you just want to make sure that you’re hitting everything when it’s on sale, and if it isn’t, then just wait two weeks and it will be. 

Once we put in the order, I’ll do a cost breakdown. I’m also trying to use eBay to find the faucet and cabinet pulls since it usually has the best prices (as long as you’re patient). 

Open Concept? Check. 

Let there be light!


We finally took down the wall between the kitchen and dining room. Er, well, by “we” I actually mean that Mr. Bunches took it down, but I provided much needed guidance and moral support ;). Remember what that corner of the kitchen started like?


So dark and, well, gross. So we took down most of the wall separating the kitchen from the dining room (which meant tearing out the pocket door. I love pocket doors but there was just no saving this one).

Here’s a progress shot which you might remember . . .


And now, the mess has been cleaned up and most of the wall is gone.  Here’s the view from the dining room.


And a comparison from the front entrance . . .


I like that you can see right through to the sunroom now.

So why didn’t we take down the whole wall? Well, this kitchen is tiny! As in 10’x11′ tiny.


Sorry for not moving the ladder but you get the idea.  That shot above shows you the whole kitchen. If you go back to the before shots, you’ll see that not much can fit in there:


  
 And with the removal of the wall (the wall that used to anchor both the stove and fridge), that means our layout choices are limited. There’s really only one option–the sink and dishwasher have to go on the wall with the window, the stove and microwave on the wall straight ahead in the picture above, and then the fridge tucked into an alcove by itself. Which is why we aren’t taking down the full wall. Here’s one rendering of the finished kitchen to give you a visual:



Now don’t freak out–that’s not exactly what our final kitchen will look like (and mostly bc we’re not planning to put in a builder’s grade 90s-style kitchen with linoleum floors). That was just the first rendering we got from a kitchen renovation place. The company (The Kaz Company) came out to the house, measured everything, and then invited us to their showroom to present the initial design and quote. Needless to say their style was a bit traditional for our taste and their prices were way out of our budget (they came in around $23k for the kitchen remodel–that price included the drywall, cabinets, new electrical panel for the house, all new electrical in the kitchen, and countertops, but it didn’t include flooring or appliances so I still think it was pretty outrageously high given the size of that kitchen).

BUT, looking on the bright side–it did help to have a rendering of the space to work from. And once I saw the layout, I realized it made sense to keep just part of the wall in order to cover the side of the fridge. Otherwise the fridge would just sort of be hanging out there in no man’s land.  And since there was only one option on where to put the fridge, it was either have the fridge showing or keep the wall to somewhat cover it.  So we opted to keep the wall.

This next picture shows really how tiny this kitchen is–that corner is basically the only area to have cabinets and countertop space. And since the window is so large, it’s not even possible to have upper cabinets on either side of the window.


Since I took these pictures a couple days ago, there’s been even more progress. New electrical and plumbing have gone in and we hope to get the place insulated and drywall up very soon. I’ve also already picked out the cabinets, sink, counters, faucet and hardware (all from Home Depot, but more on that next week). We’re still probably at least six weeks out from a new kitchen but that’s going to go by quick. Especially with the holidays in the meantime.
Until then, here’s one of my inspiration images:

That one is probably the closest image I could find of a kitchen with a similar tiny layout, although ours is even smaller!

Before I pull the trigger on the cabinets, though, I’d like to at least price out IKEA cabinets. For those of you that have done IKEA kitchens–how’s the quality? How easy was install?

 

Bathroom Be Gone!

Remember my teaser?

  
So which room was that? Well, if you guessed the bathroom, then you were right!

  
Big difference, huh? The only thing we’re keeping in the bathroom is the floor. Well, and the general footprint since it’s expensive to move plumbing around and this bathroom is so small that there aren’t really that many layout options anyways. 

  

   
  

  
  

  
  

  
 

  

  

Now that we’ve got the place emptied out we’re in the process of getting quotes from plumbers and handymen on doing all new plumbing and putting up drywall. Why all new plumbing? Well, the original plumbing is all galvanized which apparently corrodes from the inside out (it’s not copper) and so we would just assume replace it with all new PEX lines. 

Thankful

Thankful doesn’t even begin to describe it .  . . 

 

Happy Thanksgiving! 

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