Lighting Help!!

I need help making some lighting decisions so I’m asking all of you for some opinions. We had electricians working on the house this weekend and they made some serious progress, but can’t get any further without lighting fixtures to install (they replaced every outlet with up-to-code child-safe ones and also put in new light switches everywhere).  And that’s where I need help: we need new light fixtures for the side entryway, the sunroom, the dining room, and a pendant for over the sink in the kitchen. 

We also needed new outdoor lighting, but Mr. Bunches and I bought some new fixtures this weekend (who knew Lowe’s would be open on Easter?). This light for the side entry door (it will be mostly hidden due to the awning; cost was ~$12):

  
And then two of these lights for $39.98 each right by the front door:

  
As a reminder, here’s what the exterior lights look like now. I especially like the upside-down one. 

  
The only lighting decision I’ve made so far has been for the bathroom, where we went with this fixture: 

  
Okay, so that leaves four more decisions. Oy. Here are my ideas, but I’m open to suggestions. 

For the entryway by the garage (the main way the future renters and homeowners will come and go daily), this light:

  
 
It’s the same light that YHL put in their upstairs hallway.  And I loved it when they did it two years ago, and I’m excited to have a place to use it. Now if only World Market could kindly put its lighting on sale in the next few days. 
Next, I’m thinking for the sunroom ceiling light of doing this for $79 plus shipping:

  
Or this farmhouse light for $43 (it’s 16″ wide and can be hung close to ceiling–it’s also available in some fun colors in addition to brushed steel or black):

  
Just a reminder of what the sunroom looks like:

  

So that leaves the kitchen and dining room. The kitchen has four new recessed lights so all it needs is a pendant over the sink. And even though I still owe a post on the kitchen cabinets, here’s a sneak peek just so you can picture where the light will go:

  

 I love this one, but maybe it’s too modern for what’s going on in the rest of the space? My new favorite blogger at Housetweaking used three in her kitchen. The small one is currently $89 but there’s a 20% off coupon code. 

  
Alternatively, I just did a quick google search on “clear glass pendant lights” and came up with this similar, albeit different but much cheaper, option:

  

Or something more traditional but still in glass to keep it from being too heavy-looking, for $50:

  
Or lastly (at least I think lastly, but seriously one Google search for mini pendant lights turns up about 1,836 options in our price range), we could go with one of the lights that we used in our own kitchen remodel (and which we still love 4 years later):

  
  
Can you see how badly I need help?! And we haven’t even gotten to the dining room yet. I think in the dining room we’re leaning away from a chandelier and instead towards some sort of flush mount (or at least something you can walk under). Mr. Bunches doesn’t like the idea of forcing it to be a dining room by hanging a low fixture for a table, especially now that we’ve opened up the kitchen.  So what do we do? Just a plain drum shade? Something more daring? I need ideas people!! Help!

I really wish I had the guts to do something like this in the dining room, but I doubt I do:

  
Image below from Dana Miller of house*tweaking:

  
Okay, so that’s it. All thoughts/opinions welcome. 

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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 Demo: Part One

As promised, it’s time to share the progress of our kitchen renovation. As soon as we stepped in the house for the first time, we knew this kitchen would have to be a complete gut job. 

  
It’s still hard for me to stomach that someone actually lived here with the ceiling in that condition. I actually think it’s crazy. The good news, though, is that whatever caused that to happen to the ceiling appears to have been repaired. We went over there one day during a massive rainstorm and not a drop of water was coming through, so I think we’re good. Although we’re still planning to have our roofer come over to check it out. 

  
We got an estimate to demo the kitchen and bathroom and put up new drywall–it was $2,500. And since we only got one estimate, we have no idea if that was high or low. Either way, Mr. Bunches figured he could at least tackle some of the demo himself.  We knew the cabinets, floors, wall tiles, drywall, and soffits would all be coming out. But we also knew we wanted to tear down the wall between the kitchen and dining/living room.  Open concept is the name of the game these days, so we might as well go for it, right?

Here’s how that wall looked once we got someone to haul out the stove and fridge (read more about that here):

  

And here’s what it looked like once Mr. B got started on the demo:

  
He’s really doing an awesome job (I think). He wrestled up all of the floor tiles and then started chiseling off each of the large wall tiles (each one weighs about 10 pounds and we think they’re made of glass?). So basically, it’s been no small feat to get so much done.  And then as if it wasn’t hard enough, the walls are actually drywall covered in a 1/2″ layer of plaster. Awesome, right?  He’s also being extra careful to avoid electrical stuff.  Here’s how that wall looks today (that’s a pocket door on the left):

  
In addition to working on that one wall, he’s also been tackling the rest of the kitchen. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of one corner; Mr. B has removed the metal cabinets and the bulk of the tile (except the tiles on the soffits). 

  
  
  
And just to show you another example of before and after, here’s the view of the kitchen entrance from the garage/side door as it was a few days after we closed:

  
And here it is now:

  
  
We still have a long way to go in there but we’re making progress. Oh, and if you’re wondering whether that wall we’re planning to remove is load-bearing, the good news is that we don’t think so. We’re not engineers or anything, but the wall doesn’t sit on top of either of the I-Beams in the basement and the beams in the roof are all running parallel to that wall. So I’m pretty sure we’re good to go with taking it down. 

We took a little break from the internal demo work over the past few days to get some stuff accomplished on the exterior (the weather has been unseasonably warm so we wanted to take full advantage). Progress pics of that coming next week . . . 

What’s Hiding Under That Carpet?!

If you guessed hardwood floors, well, no such luck. Womp, womp. We definitely thought there would be hardwoods under all that carpet given the era of the house, but we were wrong. The only thing under those carpets was a decimated carpet pad and a subfloor. 

 

The carpet pad had turned to dust. Literally. Apparently that’s what happens after 60+ years?!

  

But despite the fact that it was a stinky, messy, and quite frankly gag-worthy job, Mr. Bunches managed to rip out all the flooring in the house in just over a day. By himself!  As he said, “I’m a man! I bet Andi [Bachelorette Season 167] would be all over me.”  I just let him have that one. 

Here are a few more in-progress shots of my man being a man.

   
   
I really have to give him a ton of credit, though. He has been getting after it and the progress he’s made is impressive.  Here’s a side-by-side of the cozy sunroom: from the day we first got inside to how it looked on Day 4. 

   
 
And here’s a close-up of what that carpet looked like when Mr. B pulled it up:

  
I don’t even want to know what all that stuff was. Again, you should all be thankful that they haven’t invented smell-a-net yet. I’m pretty sure that the chihuahua used that red carpet as his own pet pad. I’m just thankful that it’s all out of the house. Oh, and I’m thankful that the subfloors are in good shape.  (Given that it’s November now, I figured I should start practicing my thanks.)

   
    
    
 
Now we’ve got to start prepping the floors, which basically means removing all the nails and staples leftover from the carpet. The prep work is key to making sure that the installation of our new floors goes well. Oh, and since most installers will charge anywhere from $1.50-$2.00/foot for prep work, it’s also a way that we can save ourselves at least $1,500. 

Since my man was able to get so much done in only a couple days, he decided to start on the kitchen demo. Up next? Our progress in removing all. that. tile.  Ugh. 

  
Even though we’re excited to get a lot done, we’re trying to keep a good balance of house-stuff and the much more important family-stuff. And so we took a break this weekend to enjoy Halloween and our two Disney-themed kiddos. Queen Elsa and Olaf. Love them. 

   
 

Come and Get It!

The person that lived in our new property left quite a bit of, uh, stuff. (That’s the G-rated word I’ll use to describe it anyways.) And while there really wasn’t that much (it wasn’t like an episode of Hoarders or anything), there were quite a few appliances left behind and our backs ached just thinking about how we were going to get them out of the house.  Lucky for us there are people all over craigslist willing to take scrap metal off your hands for free. So in one day we managed to get 7 major appliances removed from our house.  And we didn’t have to lift a finger. 

  
  
They also took all kinds of random bits and pieces–rusted out fans, pipes, metal chairs, etc. Basically anything with some metal in it. And we were happy to give. 

But even though we had the big stuff removed for free, there was still quite a bit of other junk. Dirty, dusty, and in some cases moldy, junk. So in the interest of time (and our health), we hired a clean up crew to empty out the basement (that’s where most of the stuff was–the previous owners actually removed almost everything on the main floor). 

  
It wasn’t exactly cheap, but considering that they emptied the basement (including demoing some walls, power washing the walls and floors, and hauling away everything) AND they did it one day, it was totally worth it.  I actually thought we might have been able to do it ourselves, but when I saw the haul after only a few hours of them working, I knew we made the right decision. 

   
    
 
Even though everything in there was basically garbage, we did salvage a few things . . . I love old milk bottles and this one was in great shape.

  

 

And there was a set of 8 vintage Golden Harvest drinking jars in perfect condition. 

  

Not bad, right? And those were all stored in the basement which, believe it or not, was actually the cleanest part of the house.  

It’s so nice to at least be able to start with a (relatively) clean slate . . . 

   
    
 
The cleanup crew will return to take their blowers and dehumidifiers. And then we’ve got to get a new hot water heater and a boiler in before the Buffalo winter really gets going. Did I mention before that the previous owner took the boiler out? Sigh. That’s the risk with a foreclosure though, right?

Up next: what we’ve accomplished upstairs in less than a week!

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