Demolition Diaries: KaZoo Kitchen Reno

Newsflash: We are back in demo mode! The KaZoo Kitchen is no more. Well, the old one anyway. When we bought the ‘Zoo in December 2013, our kitchen looked like this:

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It was a typical builder kitchen with basic white appliances, stock thermofoil cabinets, beige laminate countertops, beige vinyl tile, and a micro pantry. All the essentials, and all functional (mostly). Once we brought our old (but newer than theirs) fridge and a new gas range, things were looking up:

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After installing our hood vent in summer 2014, which necessitated the removal of some of our wall cabinets, the kitchen took a turn for the worse functionally and aesthetically. We added some hardware to facilitate drawer and door opening, but the loss of so many upper cabinets was rough. We painted to help the kitchen feel happier until we could do a real renovation.

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In the interim, we began discussing ideas for our future kitchen. Almost immediately, we began dreaming of relocating the refrigerator: Its position in the southeast corner meant we could never open the refrigerator door fully. Stuffing pizza boxes, jugs of milk, watermelons, holiday turkeys, etc. in the refrigerator was next to impossible, but even regular things like heads of lettuce, bagged carrots, and leftovers saved in Pyrex containers proved difficult. While buying a French door fridge might help matters somewhat, we were also frustrated with the inefficient pantry on the opposite end of the kitchen (deep but not wide = digging out 10 things to get 1 item at the back). While having a pantry is nice, we decided we’d rather have more cabinets and counterspace…and was it remotely possible that the fridge would fit in the pantry’s spot if we tore down the pantry?! We couldn’t shake the idea, and after measuring, there was joyous celebration in the KaZoo Kitchen for the kitchen-to-come.

Of course, we were concerned the pantry might be structural, but other homes with our same floorplan in the neighborhood didn’t have a floor-to-ceiling wall at the pantry (the boxy area above our pantry was completely open to the living room in the other homes), which gave us hope. We took everything out of the pantry (feel free to play “Where’s Hermes?”)

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and tore into the drywall above the pantry to check things out.

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Our basic understanding of structures was telling us we were looking good, and after getting a licensed professional to confirm our suspicions, Mission Fridge Move was a go! That’s when the fun of Demo Day began. Kicking down drywall is so…satisfying!

Once the pantry was torn out, it was amazing how open the kitchen felt! While we had attic access above the old pantry/new fridge location, my dad and I installed a new electrical circuit and outlet so that the refrigerator would have its own independent circuit. My dad is a professionally licensed electrical engineer, and while I could do the wiring myself now after years of helping him, I’d rather have a professional on the site.

There’s a lot of shoddy DIY structural, electrical, and plumbing work out there that might get missed in a regular home inspection that can be the ultimate nightmare, so be skeptical of any home that’s obviously been renovated (especially if you see signs of bad workmanship, like the worst painted-over, patched drywall you’ve ever seen). Chances are, those homeowners may not have gotten the licensed professionals, permits, or inspections necessary to ensure a quality job. Installing or moving electrical, structural, and plumbing is a huge deal. Just because a friend or family member ‘taught’ you how to do something back in the day doesn’t mean it’s up to current code or would meet the code for the state in which you now live (Florida and California have specialized requirements, for example). Calling a professional is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of intelligence. 

We then took out the island, scraped and cleaned the remaining vinyl tiles up, lay the underlayment, and tiled the first part of the kitchen. We also patched, taped, mudded, and sanded the drywall in the new-fridge area.

 

After allowing those tiles to set, we took out the rest of the cabinets, only to discover damaged drywall behind the sink, where the previous residents clearly had experienced a leak at some point. We expected some damage because of the water damage we had seen in the cabinets, but it was more extensive than we had hoped.

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We had a mold inspection when we purchased the house that came back good to go (otherwise we would not have purchased the home), but we definitely wanted to get rid of the water damaged drywall (and the insulation behind it) ASAP, now that it was exposed and accessible.  At this point, our fridge got to move to its new, happier home. Behold the wonder and glory of being able to open the doors completely!

Can’t you hear angels singing? Hallelujah! We can. Every time I open the fridge now I can’t help but smile. You’ll note that we left the wall to the left of the fridge (a) because it had the kitchen switches on it) and (b) because we wanted the wall to hide the fridge from the view in the rest of the main living and dining area, which it does rather well.

Anyway, out went the damaged drywall, followed by the insulation, as carefully as possible to minimize possible mold spore diaspora. We took out everything in all areas evidencing any water damage plus a bit beyond the damage, both vertically and horizontally, just in case. The studs were fine, though. Whew. We installed new insulation and mold resistant purple-board (the new green-board), which was made easier with a compass-like drywall cutter than enabled us to cut clean circles for the pipe fittings and wiring.

We taped and mudded the new drywall, then lay more underlayment. The floors would already have been finished, but we wanted to keep our range connected to the gas, which has meant flooring in phases.

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Hermes is ready for things to be finished. So are we. Next time we’ll be sharing the finished flooring, painting, and all about the cabinets. I can’t wait to put ALL THE THINGS in the cabinets. And now back to work. 😉

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The Easement Awakens

Ah, the sweet satisfaction of finishing a project–in this case, replacing our fence. Warmish weather for the win! While many of you have been blasted with winter storms of late, we’ve had nothing but blue skies on the weekends, making it possible for us to actually finish our fencing project over the course of the last four weekends.

What once looked like this:

now looks like this:

In the left picture we don’t have all the posts cut to size or caps glued on the posts, so technically the finished product looks like the picture on the right. Also, the thing under the tarp in the foreground is our fire pit, if you were wondering.

Privacy? Check! Rotting? Nope! We’re calling it good.

If you’re actually interested in the fencing project, keep reading. If not, but you’re wondering about the title, skip to the “and now for the fun part” section at the bottom for a funny story about our fencing experience. 🙂

Choosing Fence Materials
We’ve only had experience with wood fences up to this point, but we chose to install a vinyl fence at the ‘Z00 for four reasons, in no particular order:

  1. Free materials. My parents installed a vinyl fence (after having a wood fence) and had leftover materials they gave us.
  2. Coordinating with existing fencing. Our neighbors already had white vinyl fences, and the west side of our backyard was already fenced with white vinyl, thanks to that neighbor.
  3. Maintenance. The white vinyl fence is lower maintenance for this area, which is one of the reasons my parents installed a vinyl fence after living with a wood fence for awhile. The salty, humid air accelerates the weathering process of wooden fences, and even those galvanized exterior wood screw boxes will tell you they are not to be used within 5 miles of coastline.
  4. Cost. Considering the damage our existing wood fence had suffered, after pricing out replacement wood for the worst sections, it was cheaper to replace the entire thing with vinyl fencing.

Installation Process
With a regular wood fence, fencing is rather straightforward because you set the posts, then attach the panels to the posts using the runner boards. Not so with the vinyl fence we installed.

We experienced a number of issues with installing this kind of fence: The brackets that attach the panels to the posts must be attached to the posts and then to the panels. If you measure the length of the panel, set your posts, then try to install the panels between the posts, you have no wiggle room, and you can’t slide the panels down into the brackets from above if you are a two-man one man, one short woman crew. Even if you could do that, the panels aren’t uniformly sized (and aren’t always square), so creating an installation template for the distances between the posts and between the top, middle, and bottom brackets based on the measurements of one panel result in post overlaps, gaps between panel and post, or bracket misalignment. Awesome. 

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After experimenting with different installation techniques, we decided that the following sequence worked best: (1) Person A holds the panel level at correct height while Person B traces the top bracket location on first (already set) post. (2) Person B attaches the top bracket to the first post snugly, then Person A holds the panel level in the top bracket while Person B traces the middle bracket position. (3) Person B attaches the middle bracket to the post with a little wiggle room, then Person A holds the panel level in the top and middle brackets while Person B traces the bottom bracket position. (4) Person B attaches the bottom bracket to the post with a little wiggle room, then Person A holds the panel level in all three brackets to set middle and bottom bracket final position, while Person B drills pilot holes in the panel and then attaches brackets to panel. At this point, the panel is now attached fully to the first set post. (5) Person A continues to hold the panel level at correct height (helped somewhat by the first set and now attached post) while Person B positions the second not-yet-set post in its hole beside the panel. (6) Repeat steps 1-4 for the other post, but Person B must also check the placement of the post along the string line (for straightness of fencerow) and that the post remains plumb as (s)he attaches the brackets. (7) With Person A holding the not-yet-set post in place, Person B pours the concrete for the post. Fun times. Not really. 

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One of the other complications that we experienced was having to meet up with our neighbors’ fences. For example, in the back east corner of our yard, our fence doesn’t meet our east neighbor’s back fence because they have set their fence ON the back property line, rather than inside it. Since we went through the proper procedure of getting a city building permit for our fence, we will be held accountable for making sure our fence is inside the property line. It makes for a bit of an eyesore that the fences don’t line up but is what we must do. The pre-existing white vinyl fence on the west side that our west neighbors built actually sits in our yard (PAST the property line, not even on it), and there is a retaining wall that extends from their backyard into our yard that made us have to stop our back fencerow too soon to meet up with the too-inside west side fence. We had to devise a solution for this awkward arrangement. In addition, we had to make our gates, including a new gate on the northwest side, work with the east and west neighbors’ existing gates, both of which had been attached to OUR original wood fence posts. We would have preferred to move our gates further forward in our yard so that more of our windows would be fenced into our backyard (we have to stare at our east neighbor’s trashcan from our living room window-ugh), but we are required to match on the front with our neighbors, even though our fence was the original one to which THEY matched. It is so frustrating to live in a city and neighborhood with such ridiculous restrictions if you actually abide by the law.

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The last complication also related to the gates–namely, that the instructions provided with the gate gave the wrong specs for the allowance between gate posts, so we always had oversized gates for the space between the posts we had stood (the gates required set posts, so no wiggle room here). We had planned our post positions such that we could make the cuts for our gate sizes along the prefabricated picket lines in the panels so that the gates were sturdier and more factory-finish looking on the ends. On the first gate, we just assumed my dad had mis-measured somehow to be too tight, or “precise” of a fit. On the second gate, we thought we made the same mistake he had. By the third gate, when we experienced the same phenomenon the third time, we realized the error was not ours. Overall, this experience taught us that my dad’s adage about not reading/following the directions exactly actually made sense. We tend to be skeptical of directions for items made in certain countries based on past experiences (sorry China), but this fence was made in the States. Plus, a measured distance of 7 inches should always be 7 inches, but their specification of “7 inches” allowance needed to have been 8 inches instead. Fortunately, my dad gave us these white vinyl pieces (I can’t remember what their real purpose is) that slide over the jagged edges where we had to cut down our perfectly sized gates, and they actually make the gates look even better.

And now for the fun part
You can imagine the tedium of fencing: string, set, measure, prop, level, hold, drill, drive, repeat ad nauseam. Fortunately, some neighbor kids have provided us some much needed entertainment while we worked recently.

Behind our house is an electrical easement, and beyond that, another neighborhood. The power company allows ‘native’ weeds plants to proliferate in the easement, coming only once every three years with a Bobcat to mow them down and a wood chipper. Although some things die back in the mild Florida winters, mowing once every three years is hardly enough to keep the flesh-eating plants wild blackberries, sandspurs, cat’s claw, etc. at bay. The power company does allow us to use the easement for gardening, if you should feel like taming the jungle on your own, of course. Of course, because the jungle snakes its way through our fences into our backyards, we have to mow and weedeat the jungle anyway. Constant vigilance! as Professor Moody (or Barty Crouch, Jr.) would say.

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Rarely do we see anyone back in the easement. In fact, I can only remember seeing a group of teens walking through it on a holiday weekend in search of a shorter route to the beach than the main road. I suspicion they regretted their decision to hike into the jungle wearing bikinis and flipflops, given the certainty of the briars marring their flawlessly tanned skin.

Fortunately, 2015 was a mowing year, so things were a bit shorter than usual this winter, making it easier to see the neighbors’ houses, traverse the area, and most importantly, work on the fence. Late one afternoon while standing posts and panels for the back fence, we saw a couple of tween boys emerge from the undergrowth in a clearing, brandishing sticks like light sabers. They reminded me of Max from Where the Wild Things Are as they shouted and galloped through the brambles with their sticks, slashing at briars and each other. They climbed into a shabby treehouse nestled in a grove of trees in the backyard of a house in the neighborhood opposite us, a few lots down.IMG_5131

After a little while, the boys reemerged and began scavenging the opposite side of the easement for anything homeowners might have discarded in the jungle (sadly, this happens). A couple of old screened doors soon adorned their treehouse. It wasn’t too long before we heard them heading our direction–heard, not saw, because by this time we working on the side of the fence interior to the backyard and thus out of their line of sight. They stopped short directly behind us, and one of them exclaimed, “Here’s some bricks we should come back to get!” We realized then that the boys were planning to take our bricks and obviously had no idea that we were on the premises! Previously, we had been using those bricks to line our flowerbeds in the back, but we had to take the beds (and bricks) out to take down the old fence and build the new one. During this process, we had also discovered a zone of the easement along our fencerow colonized by fireants, and we used the bricks to mark the places NOT to step until we no longer had to dance delicately between the ant beds while fencing.

Chris swung open the gate we had just hung the previous weekend, and I stepped through it into the easement. You can imagine the look on the kids’ faces when they realized that we had been on the other side of the fence and had overheard their plans. The obvious leader (and quirkier of the two), managed a rather cheery “Merry Christmas!” over his shoulder as they scampered out of sight. It was the end of January, but you know.

Needless to see, we paused in our fence building to move all the bricks to a safer place deep inside our yard. Once this was accomplished and we had returned to fence work, we saw them gallop past us, carrying a discarded (and extremely dry) Christmas tree, complete with red plastic base, overhead. Presumably, it is now sitting in the “living room” of their treehouse, where we can only hope they do not play with matches. Because if they do, let’s just say, tinderbox.

Ah to be young and imaginative again.

They were hilarious to watch. Of course, they didn’t know we had been watching their antics the whole time we had been working. Of course, it could also be that we were simply so bored that a couple of kids engaged in make believe play was highly entertaining to us.

As the sun was setting, they crawled over a fence into a different backyard, presumably the other kid’s home, and disappeared until the next day.

I’m almost sad that we finished the fence, as I cannot vicariously return to Jakku or Narnia or Middle-earth, or whatever world the easement becomes for them on the weekends.

And now we will be getting a lock for our back gate so they don’t haul off our adirondack chairs, too. Wink.

KaZoo 2016 Year in Preview

Mista Lista is back, baby! Since the entirety of the ‘Zoo has been a construction zone for awhile, Mista Lista took a long vacation. A sabbatical, if you will. Now refreshed and ready for the new year, Mista Lista is back on the blog to share a sneak peek of what’s on the schedule for 2016 in the ‘Zoo.

Mista Lista has noticed the KaZoos aren’t the best at finishing projects on schedule (Can I get an amen?), or remotely close to schedule, for that matter.  I call it Creative Minds Meets If You Give a Mouse a Cookie Complex.

Creatives aren’t always known for progressing sequentially and logically along the shortest possible path to the endzone. They zig. They zag. They occasionally throw a series of backward passes. Wait a sec, that’s football. My bad.

Creative types often start a number of projects that sit in various stages of semi-completion as their enthusiasm for one idea is soon overtaken by inspiration for another. Their creative energy is diverted again, and again, and again, leaving them with a garage full of tools/supplies and a house full of construction projects hazards.

And of course, this haphazard completion is helped (?) along when the beginning of Project A leads to the beginning of another related Project B. For example, when the KaZoos wanted to install their range hood vent, it meant tearing down the upper kitchen cabinets first to make room for said hood vent. But cutting holes in the roof for exterior ventilation meant getting someone to cut the hole in the roof and seal the opening (that would guarantee the work). And given the existing roof was nearing the its end of life, shouldn’t they just go ahead and replace it while the guy was coming out to look at the roof? And on the story goes. Anyone else need a cookie and milk after that? I thought so. 

Therefore, without further ado, I give you the KaZoos’ 2016 resolution:

Finish what you started.

Startling, I know.

So what’s on the docket? Here goes, in no particular order:

Mrs. KaZoo’s Dissertation
We’ll start with the most depressing and boring project, Mrs. KaZoo’s dissertation. Yup, this project is getting knocked out in 2016. I realize this probably doesn’t interest (m)any of you, so enough about that.

King Quilt
Mrs. KaZoo plans to finish the king quilt she started two (three?) years ago so that the KaZoos have cooler covers for the warm summer weather.

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Backyard Fence
The KaZoos have had a partially fenced backyard for months now-the result of working steadily but slowly to replace fence panels as time and money allowed. As the KaZoos near the year anniversary of starting their fence job (March), they plan to have this baby complete and inspected before winter is over, or February. They actually tackled the back gate the previous weekend, so here’s hoping they can get a few more panels and the last two gates done in the next couple of weekends.

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Fireplace Wall
It’s time for the fireplace to get some more love, just in time for Valentine’s Day, perhaps? The KaZoos built footings for the mantel last weekend, so all that’s left is to reinstall the mantel, caulk, paint, and tile the fireplace surround. And calling a chimney sweep to clean things up from the renters who tried to burn wood in a fireplace designed for gas logs. I know, right?! 

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Floors
The longest project in the history of the ‘Zoo. Seriously. What’s left, you ask? Laying underlayment in the guest wing, tiling and grouting the guest wing, and tiling and grouting the master wing. Oh, and the kitchen and master bath after those get demolished. 

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Baseboards
Once they get the floors finished, the KaZoos plan to install new, chunkier baseboards.

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Paint Touchups
The Kazoos need to touchup the paint in a few areas around the house. Seriously, people. A finished paint job makes everything look more polished.

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Kitchen Renovation
The KaZoos also have a BIG kitchen reno in the works. Design, demo of existing pantry, relocation of refrigerator and waterline, new drywall and paint, purchase and installation of new cabinets and countertops, you know. All in a day’s work, right? Smirk.

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The fools KaZoos intend to complete all of these projects in the first half of 2016, but I’m not going to hold them to any promises. {Wink.}

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas at the ‘Zoo

Mid-October, Chris suggested we put up our exterior Christmas lights on Halloween weekend. After recovering from a serious laughing fit, I countered with Veteran’s Day, as autumn is my favorite season, even if Christmas is my favorite holiday. Glittering icicles take away from the pumpkins, and I like to let the pumpkins have their moment.

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We finally put up exterior lights on the weekend after Thanksgiving.

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Thanks to our tiny driveway and three cars, you can’t see all the lights. And the blinding orb? A snowflake. It shows up better in real life. #notaphotographer

This year, #flooring marathon2015 meant we barely got the main living areas floored in time for the holidays, so there was a bit of a delay on the decorating. But the good news is that the main areas have real floors again, and we love them!

We did manage to put up a few Christmas decorations inside before the start of December, and I even swapped out the scrapbook pages in the white frames for Christmasy ones for less than a dollar. I had a hard time choosing between all the different possibilities, so right now the wall is host to “Rustic Christmas” but will soon be switching to “Sparkly Christmas” for fun. IMG_5473You can also see this picture features a Homer bucket housing the Internet goodies (we threw the router, AirPort, and all the cords in a Homer bucket to keep them safe from the construction), laundry being folded (hey, that’s impressive, right?), and a mirror we used to see the back of the TV for hooking up electronics. Keeping it real, peeps.

I finally put up our main Christmas tree after the first full weekend in December. As you can see, we are still touching up paint and working on the mantel. #stockingsmaynotbehungbythechimneywithcarethisyear BUT LOOK AT THOSE FLOORS. AND THE TREE!

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I use both white and colored lights on the same tree.  Why? Because I can. When Chris and I got married and it came time to put lights on our first big Christmas tree together, there was cause for pause: Chris’s family always used colored lights on their tree, and my family always had one tree with white lights and another with colored lights…but Chris and I only had ONE tree. What to do!? Inspiration struck, and I decided to put both white AND colored lights on the same tree but on separate circuits plugged into our multiplug.  That way, if we are feeling like a White Christmas, we can have only white lights. If we want only colored lights, we can have that as an another option, too. But we agree that both is best. More light is always the answer.

I realize the delay in decorating for Christmas is seen as a blogger crime against humanity. This is ridiculous, folks, given how many bloggers have expressed frustration and anxiety over trying to decorate early in time to be featured here and there. I understand that for most of those who fall in this category, blogging is a source of income, but seriously, people. In the interests of trying to attract and retain the attention of more popular bloggers, corporate sponsors, and followers, bloggers are sacrificing the joys of the season on the altars of commercialism, consumerism, and materialism. Jesus was apparently just fine with a stable. Why aren’t we?

Don’t get me wrong, I love decorating for Christmas, and I normally have my Christmas decorations up by Thanksgiving so we can enjoy them for longer. Because I have a pre-Christmas December birthday (and probably because I’m a girl), I have received a lot of birthday and Christmas presents that happened to be Christmas decorations. I can count on one hand the times I have purchased ornaments for myself. I love them all, and every year when I unbox them, it is like saying hello to old friends and family. I also inherited a lot of Christmas decorations from my parents who don’t decorate as much anymore, probably because they don’t have me at home to do it anymore. #childlabor #momwasallergictothetrees #dadclimbedontheroofthough #ilovedit

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This tree gets most of the soft ornaments because its top wobbles a bit, and the cats can reach it from the table, meaning a disaster is likely to happen.  The larger tree shown above gets soft ornaments around its base only.

Each item brings to mind the person who gave it to me–from the ornament my first babysitter gave me to the festive present lights from one of my college roommates. When I set up my Fontanini nativity scene, I remember my mother’s sister who started my collection before she suffered a heart attack and died a few years ago. This year, when I placed my Byer’s Choice carolers on the bookcase in our new library/music nook, I thought of a dear family friend whose caroler collection was the inspiration for mine; she passed a few months ago after a long battle with cancer and lingering complications. As I open each item and recall the giver, I say a prayer for those who are still living. For those who have passed, I pray for those they have left behind. IMG_5509

For the past two years, my mom has given me beachy ornaments, now that we live at the beach, so I had just enough ornaments for a small sea-themed tree. I used a tree that was rescued from my grandparents’ attic after my grandfather passed away this summer. It was in sad shape, but I think it turned out okay. It didn’t have a functional base, and since I’m too cheap/lazy to buy floral foam, I just stuck it in an old decorative urn from Pier 1, weighted down with river rocks. I don’t exactly recommend this, as Hermes has pulled it over a couple of times. #lifewithcats This tree has all the shatterproof ornaments on it, thankfully. I hope to add a starfish at the top before Christmas.

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If you are wondering about the ombre effect with the darker indigo lights at the base and the bright turquoise at the top, you can thank Target circa 12 years ago. I bought a set of blue Christmas lights from the Target Christmas clearance section, and the tint wasn’t uniform. I’ve always loved the anomaly, and they’re still going strong. #happyaccidents #pleasemakethemonpurpose

Now back to my concern about Christmas and the need to DECORATE WITH ALL THE THINGS. I love to decorate for Christmas because I cherish the people and memories associated with those decorations–not because my house needs to look just-so for the right people. For me, each decoration is a reminder of love.

IMG_5512My concern is that we are so busy preparing for Christmas that we miss Christmas by forgetting to be still. At the very time we celebrate Emmanuel, God with us, we forget to be with God. We have become Martha, busily cleaning and crafting and decorating and baking and shopping and gift-wrapping, instead of being Mary–just sitting and listening to what God has to say to us. Or perhaps, because of the way ‘professional’ blogging works, it appears to all the world that the best bloggers can be both Martha and Mary, rendering numerous readers (and other bloggers, even!) feeling hopelessly inadequate at both. At a time we should be demonstrating authentic love for others, we hand them unnecessary heartaches wrapped in a perfect bow instead.  Not cool. Let’s get out of the kitchen/craftroom, off the internet, and into the Word as we celebrate the time when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

Off my soapbox, now. I promise. And because every good post has cat pictures:

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At least I know they like our trees…and they know how to be still, at least for a little while! 🙂

 

 

Musical Furniture: The Game We Love to Play

It’s a running joke in my family that one of our unofficial side businesses is furniture moving.  That’s because we do it ALL. THE. TIME. We like to play furniture shuffle within our homes on a regular basis, always searching for a better arrangement that maximizes space, storage, etc. It’s part of our exercise plan. Kidding. Sort of.

Of course, the game is made more difficult by, you guessed it, musical furniture. I rarely see design bloggers working around grand pianos in small or modestly sized homes, so I thought I’d tackle this topic for our home and blog.

Musical instruments have particular needs. Climate control is important, so avoiding placement near sources of heat, cold, and moisture is vital. Dreams of baby grands gleaming in Victorian window bays shattered. Tragic, I know.  

When placing a grand piano near a wall (avoid those exterior ones, remember!), you’ll also want to allow enough room to open and raise the lid and to access all parts of it for cleaning and polishing, which typically means a minimum allowance of 12 inches away from the wall. Positioning the piano so that the long side runs parallel to the wall is more aesthetically and acoustically pleasing.

People with larger homes, multiple living rooms, and/or extra bedrooms/bonus rooms have it easy. Not so with the ‘Zoo. We have a three bedroom home with only one (not-so) great room, and we need every bedroom we have as a bedroom. No dedicated home office. No home gym. No music room. No home theater room. No basement. No bonus room. No playroom. No library. Just one modest living room with a little nook off to the side.When we bought the ‘Zoo, we were delighted that the living room had that extra nook so that my 5’ baby grand piano would only encroach upon the main walkway by a foot or so. Unfortunately, when the lid is not raised but flipped back, Chris frequently runs into its sharp corner. Sacrifices must be made right? Kidding. Definitely not for the best.

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To prevent further stabbings, we tried a number of different furniture arrangements in the living room over the past year or so, but nothing really felt like THE ONE. Consequently, during #flooringmarathon2015 I played around with furniture arrangements for when we could move everything from our personal “Room of Requirement” into the rest of the house. Here’s the rub:

  1. The piano has to stay in the main interior space and not in direct light or near a heat source. It cannot stay in its present position due to stabbings, nor can it be rotated in this spot without causing increased stabbings. If you are thinking that we could simply raise the lid and solve this stabbing problem, let me add that we have all tile floors and vaulted ceilings…and I’m fairly certain the neighbors can hear me playing/singing with the lid shut. I trained as a vocal performance major before shifting into education, and I’m fairly certain that my neighbors don’t dig opera…or anything remotely classical.
  2. The computer desk must be in the main interior space and receive some natural light but not suffer glare. I won’t go into detail, but suffice it to say that I don’t like working in bedrooms where relaxation is supposed to happen. Especially if said bedrooms get hot in the afternoon. 
  3. The black bookcase, like the piano, is visually and spatially dominant. It looks best when positioned against the long, tall walls of our home.  Who are we kidding? These are the only walls where it fits!IMG_4428
  4. Obviously, we need to have the sofa and love seat be in the living room if we want company. And we do. But our sofa is 92″ long.
  5. Also the TV. There is only one wall in the true living room area on which the TV fits and only one functional cable jack (not on that same wall, though, because that would make TOO MUCH SENSE). This area of the house is inaccessible for rewiring without tearing down the ceiling because there is no attic above it, so the TV cannot relocate to more spacious walls.  Awesome, right? I KNOW.IMG_4589
  6. The dining area is too small for the sitting area, and the dining set doesn’t fit in the current music nook.IMG_4375-1
  7. The thermostat also happens to be on one of the only tall long walls and could be blocked by the black bookcase, depending on its placement.
  8. No TV in the bedroom. I’m a firm believer that TV in the bedroom = less, well, ya know. Sleeping. Plus, our TV (an older model flat screen) emits some serious warmth, making our bedroom way too hot. And watching TV from the bed encourages bad back problems. Definitely don’t want more of those.
  9. I need room for exercising in front of the TV. Gyms = germs . I also am firmly opposed to exercise equipment in the bedroom or main living spaces. Call me a design snob, but it is what it is: Gym furniture is hideous. This doesn’t bother some people, and that’s to their advantage.  It kills me. Now, if someone could make a home gym disappear into an attractive armoire, then I’d be all for it. Hmmm…MY IDEA. INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS CLAIMED.
  10. Last of all, we must be able to walk from area to area without gut stabbings. We are anti-stabbing in this family, as all families should be.
  11. We celebrate Christmas and inherited an artificial tree with a large diameter that also gets to be squeezed into our bursting-at-the-seams living room. Christmas doesn’t get sacrificed around here, so I always include a Christmas tree in my furniture arrangements, knowing that the arrangement will be more spacious without it the rest of the year but will have sufficient space for it during the Christmas season.

If this sounds like a cross between an LSAT question and a design dilemma, you’re right.

After much deliberation, we developed a new arrangement, and the piano moved. I decided to throw caution to the winds and take a leaf out of the luxury home design book by sliding the piano into the center of our open living room area, directly in the main thoroughfare of the house.

Crazy? Yep. Tight? Definitely. BUT…

  1.  The TV, flanked by bookcases, stays where it fits (and functions) best in the living room, and the bookcases (will) hide the tangle of cords currently housed in a Homer bucket.IMG_5468 Yep, we painted the walls again. This color is for keeps.  Note the FLOORS!
  2. I prefer floating sofas, but the piano will be floating instead. Sacrifices. At least the long, plain back of the sofa won’t be visible anymore. Plus, the cats like the back of the sofa for afternoon siestas, and I’m sure they’ll like the window seat effect.
  3. The desk receives some natural light but not too much, and is located where I can cook dinner on the stove and check email simultaneously. Stay tuned for more on this in a future post.
  4. The black bookcase leaves the dining room (score), but the dining table stays, which is ideal for grabbing seconds or dessert from the adjacent kitchen (double score). Keeping it real, people.IMG_3897
  5. The piano has enough ‘walkaround’ space to avoid stabbings and is now a featured furniture piece in our home, yet it feels more tucked away than it did before somehow.
  6. Best of all, the new arrangement creates room for a new “library nook,” complete with our black behemoth bookcase and a cozy chair with optional ottoman.  The piano bench can even be used for seating! Eventually, we may add our old coffee table for puzzles, games, etc., but right now, we are enjoying the openness.  We’ve always wanted a dedicated library, and this might be the best we can do for a long time. #bibliophiles

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And now, because it has taken us so long to accomplish #flooringmarathon2015 that the holiday season is upon us, I give you the Christmasy version of the new music/library nook so you can actually see the piano in its new location:

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Customized Jewelry Storage

Personal Service Announcement: If there is one project you should hire out, it is definitely installing wood plank tile in your whole house.  In case you are wondering, yep, we are still slowly tiling our whole house. Forty, no, fifty days? Times a hundred it would seem!

Anyway, that project isn’t going to be ready to share for another 300 days (it seems), so I thought I would share a quick DIY I did last Monday while Chris was working on his car and other people were complaining about Columbus.

For the last 15 years or so, I have had a very functional jewelry armoire (from Service Merchandise–remember those days?) that my parents gave me. However, our recent NYC-apartment-like living in a fraction of our house’s square footage has amplified the need to eliminate some furniture pieces that aren’t working quite as hard as others. Let’s be honest: Sleep is essential; jewelry is not. I realize this may sound like treason to some, but my engagement + wedding rings and a pair of pearl studs are just enough bling for me most days. Ergo, the bed is in; the armoire is out.

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A couple of years ago, my mom made the decision to sell her jewelry armoire (purchased at the same time as mine) in the interests of having more floor space, and she has never looked back.  I decided it was time to follow suit.

I’ve noticed a trend in open jewelry storage, but I’m not a fan for two main reasons: (1) dust (2) cats. If you cycle through all your necklaces on a regular basis, you probably don’t have to worry about dust settling on your jewelry, but I would…and dust mites really aren’t a great fashion statement. In addition, we have cats that like to play with shiny, dangling objects (and one that likes to try to eat them), so this is a no-go for us.

My mom has been using these stackable jewelry boxes from Bed, Bath, & Beyond that keep her jewelry dust-free, and I opted to do the same, with a DIY modification.

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The set of 3 stackable trays (a bit misleading because it is really 2 + a lid) is a better buy than the separate individual trays, but the set doesn’t come with the tray with the ring/stud holder that is the very best part of my jewelry armoire. Womp, womp, womp. Typical marketing/sales ploy. 

Rather than pay $20 for the add-on section at the same time, I chose to make my own, using leftover craft materials. I didn’t have anything comparable to the velvety lining on hand, so I grabbed some craft foam.

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I simply cut a piece of foam to match the width of the smallest compartment, then folded it accordion-style, with each fold being slightly less than the height of the compartment, about 1/2″ long.

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The accordion folds give it just enough tension to wedge into the existing compartment and hold itself without the need of any adhesive.  That’s right–NO ADHESIVE NEEDED. This means you can always take the foam back out. 🙂

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The folds also give it the sections needed for inserting rings and studs. I used tighter folds for the studs and looser folds for the rings, and both are working just fine.

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Eventually I may purchase the real deal (with a good coupon!), but for the 15 minutes it took and the $20 savings right now, it was a nice quick fix to tide me over until then!

One Days, Todays, and Labor Days

Remember when we were I was all sorts of ambitious and thought we could complete a whole house flooring project in forty days? Smirk.  

In my defense, it has been an unusual summer. My grandfather passed away at the end of June, one of our dear family friends passed away in August, and Chris started a new job (vacation days now reset to zero). Life happens, or so ‘they’ say. Death happens, too.

Trouble is, I’m starting to realize that this is the new normal.

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As a child, I was a dreamer, always envisioning how things would be one day. In eighth grade, we were given a prompt to write about which age we thought would be the best age and why. Most of my classmates immediately thought of ages like 16, 18, 21, etc. I secretly thought retirement age would be best but was embarrassed about why I would want to be an ‘old person’ puttering around a garden or sitting in a rocking chair on a farmhouse porch instead of a hip teenager with a cool car and independence. {Sidenote: Why do we spend so much time wishing to be older only to become old and wish we were young instead?} 

As a young adult, I developed into a planner and hard worker, carefully setting goals, making schedules, checking off to do lists, all in the interests of achieving and earning the right to enjoy the ‘one day’ that I had envisioned retirement being.  My family has a work now, play later mentality. We handle delayed gratification well. Except not so much anymore.

I’ve watched my parents work very hard for many years, but to what end? Caring for people with dementia/Alzheimer’s disease is definitely not the peaceful retirement life I imagined. Having dementia/Alzheimer’s isn’t either.

At 31, I’ve finally realized that there is no ‘one day’–at least, not in this life. If we live for ‘one day’, we will miss today.  And tomorrow makes no promises.

One day our floors will be done.  It won’t be today, tomorrow, or anytime soon. As tired of living in chaos as I am, I am slowly accepting that chaos is normal for people who bought a fixer upper and are fixing it up as time and money allow while living in it. Also insanity.IMG_5109-2

Plus, as a DIYer, the day ‘one day’ arrives is a death sentence. This means you have ‘finished’ your space, and there is nothing left to do to improve upon it. But one day will never come, because there will always be something new that catches your eye and inspires you to tackle another project. In this sense, one day simply isn’t coming because there is a part of us that refuses to let it.

My creative desire to prolong one day clashes with my perfectionist need for one day to have come yesterday. For the floors to be done and for everything to be back in its place so that we can host dinner parties. For me to have the time to host dinner parties. For me to have the time (and space) to make dinner. For me to have the time to eat dinner. Kidding, I ALWAYS make time for eating dinner.

Dreaming and planning, like most things, are good in moderation and can bring joy. But for a recovering perfectionist like me, I have come to the conclusion that dreams and plans are also killjoys, stealing my ‘todays’ while I’m caught up in the ‘one days’ they promise to deliver. Like the plans I made to accomplish ALL THE FLOORS! in forty, no fifty, days. My plans whispered, Follow me, and you’ll have everything back to normal in no time at all! Fool that I am, I believed their lies.  IMG_5063-1

In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone,  when Harry is held captive (figuratively) by the Mirror of Erised, Dumbledore cautions, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” Despite how many times I have read this book/watched the movie and thought this was sage advice, only now do I feel the depth of the knowledge and experience bound up in Dumbledore’s words.  It is one thing to know something in your head and entirely another to know it in your heart.

Our neighbors have stopped asking us if our floors are finished yet. Smart people. The eardrum shattering whine of the wet saw tells them we are making progress slowly and steadily. They know we’ll invite them over to see the finished product. One day.

We’ll be spending this Labor Day weekend grouting, cleaning, and moving furniture back into place so we can switch to working on the rest of the house (and stop paying rent on our storage unit-ugh). We will also be knocking out some of the fencing this weekend, too, if time allows. Fun times.

IMG_5040Oh, and this happened a couple of weeks ago when we were doing dishes. Our cabinets are literally falling apart. The up close picture shows you how worn they are. We think the kitchen is trying to tell us something….We hear you, kitchen. We do. You’re next. One day. 😉

Demolition Diaries: A Cat’s Eye View of DIY

It’s official: The humans have gone completely mad, and we’re fed up. As if it weren’t bad enough that they took away all the soft things (and most of the hard things, too!) and shoved us into the smallest room crammed full of what’s left, we’ve had to deal with the WORST…Oh, did we forget to introduce ourselves? Forgive us. In case you haven’t read this page where the humans briefly mention us (before going ON and ON about themselves), we’re Cleopatra and Hermes, the resident felines.IMG_4867

I (Cleo) am the seal point Siamese wisely choosing the soft bed, and Hermes is the flame point Himalayan who prefers the cool concrete. We have our differences but have decided to unite together in a mission to restore order and comfort to our home.  We miss the lazy Saturday mornings spent in the humans’ bed. WE MUST TAKE IT BACK.

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Anyway, we’ve temporarily taken over this machine the people use to communicate with other humans to express our disdain for this incessant need they have to ruin our lives ALL. THE TIME. Okay, so maybe not all of the time–just lately.  Just when things were getting to a semi-normal state around here, we were locked up, and when they let us out again, ALL THE THINGS were gone.  We don’t know why they felt compelled to get rid of all the nice things.  I mean sure, we might have used that thing they call a “loveseat” for a scratching post, and we might have used the table as a runaway/launchpad for sailing onto the bookcase, but we didn’t think the scratch marks were that bad. Clearly they don’t understand the important of nail care and exercise.

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Then, they locked us up AGAIN. When we emerged the second time from our confinement, they had ripped up ALL THE FLOORS. Oh, sure, that carpet was NASTY…in fact we wouldn’t even lie on it, but it sure was fun to shred! Well, except for the edges where those sharp metal teeth were.  Okay, maybe tearing up the floors was a good idea.  I mean, we really got it started for them, so it was probably pretty easy work.

But the NEXT time they locked us up was the worst. Oh, the torture. The agony! There were horrible noises like a thousand metal hyenas howling. We buried our heads in our beds to no avail. The female human stayed with us and covered her ears, too, so the culprit must have been the male. He’s usually the quieter of the two, so we were surprised that he could even make such noises. When he peeked in the door to check on us, he was covered in white dust. We can’t imagine why he would want to be so dirty. Ugh. Completely shameful. Humans clearly do not understand good hygiene.  The dust was everywhere, too, and if the female hadn’t kept us in our room, we would have choked to death.  Maybe the confinement was for our own good….

After that, they locked us up again (starting to understand our frustration yet?), and when we emerged from our third round of imprisonment, half of the house was covered in this weird orange plastic carpet.  Big Foot (Hermes) hasn’t minded it, but I (Cleo) am not really a fan–too hard on my dainty paws.  The only bright spot in all of this has been the fact that the once forbidden guest room has now been made available to us, and we get to gaze wistfully at all the mockingbirds in the front yard.IMG_4966

Recently, they’ve started putting these long, cool planks on top of the orange carpet. They are perfectly sized for one cat to recline on them.  Of course, it is completely annoying that they keep picking them back up and shuffling them around in some places.  Why not put more of them down on the orange stuff? Is it not clear what we prefer?

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Anyway, it’s been two months of this, and we’re sick of it.  We can’t remember the last time we had a fast and furious playtime with the green magic light that moves around or with the jingle balls and rattle mice.  I mean, it’s just not fun to play in a confined area. Seriously, people. What were you thinking? You’ve ruined EVERYTHING.

We don’t like to admit it, but we’ve resorted to some counter tactics to make our voices heard. Hermes, the more athletic of the two of us, easily hurdled their childproof gate, once he realized that he no longer fit between the bars.  Childproof–not cat proof, people.  Seriously.  After the gate breach, they put up some cardboard “doors” to block us from the rest of the house, but we shredded right through those.  Silly humans.  More recently, Hermes has taken to jumping on the keyboard and waking up this computer machine screen at 4:30 a.m. to ruin the people’s sleep. This also ruins my sleep. Kittens. Sheesh.IMG_5005This practice works okay for the male, but the female just rolls over. She is immune to our night assaults.  Trouble is, the male banishes us to the other small room when Hermes does this, which means being relegated to the items they refer to as ‘pet beds’ and ‘cat condos’. Don’t they understand the importance of sharing when it comes to cohabitation? 

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This is a serious problem, and we must think of other ways to retaliate that don’t result in less comfortable quarters.  We’ve tried to play nice, but we are getting desperate, folks.  If you have any ideas, let us know in the comments below!

Pros and Cons of DIY Flooring

Recently, I’ve noticed some DIYers in the blogosphere handing over jobs they could do themselves (or even have done before) to the ‘pros’.  Perhaps these are the people whose jobs, blogs, and/or side gigs are highly profitable…or people who have had back surgery…or people who have a solid dose of common sense and enough experience to know when doing it yourself just isn’t for the best for whatever reason.  Now that we are waist deep in tile, we are revisiting the pros and cons of DIY tile flooring installation that we weighed prior to starting our project but for which we have a greater appreciation now:

Pros:

  • You save BIG BUCKS not paying for labor.
  • You can work at your own pace and/or work slowly enough to ensure it is not a rush job. No worries about that rush job here. None at all. 
  • Concrete mixing and lifting 50 lb sacks of mortar make you strong.  Chris is definitely in better shape than he has been in years.
  • You learn new skills {including delayed gratification and ways to de-smellify your hands from hours of wearing chemical resistant gloves}.
  • You have the satisfaction of accomplishment when finished, whenever that will be. Probably sometime next year.
  • You can control the quality of the job if you know what you are doing.

Cons:

  • You take on additional supply costs, such as the purchase or rental of things like expensive wet saws, grinders, floor scrapers, etc. to which pro installers already have access, but you, the burgeoning DIYer, may not. Womp, womp.
  • Working at your own pace can be VERRRRRRRRRY SLOOOOOOOOOW, especially if you don’t take time off work. When tiling an entire house, taking one, even two weeks off work isn’t always sufficient…and who wants to spend all of their vacation days laying tile? Not these kids.
  • At the same time, if you rely on a ‘pro’ to do the job, you may not be able to ensure timely completion of the job anyway. Some of our neighbors hired someone to install their wood plank tile who didn’t show up for work for days on end while they were living in a hotel.  When they called his cell phone from their home to find out where he was, they heard his phone ringing on their kitchen counter. Whoopsy.
  • Two words: concrete lung (discussed here).
  • Person with bad knees + hours on knee pads on concrete slab = Sore Limpsalot
  • If you don’t know what you are doing, you are likely going to have to call in the pros sooner or later anyway, negating all previously discussed pros of DIY.
  • If you rely on a ‘pro’ to the the job, you are making assumptions that this person knows more about tiling than you do and cares about doing a quality job. When remodeling their guest bath, my father discovered that the pro who installed the tile in the house my parents purchased had tiled up to the baseboards, rather than removing them.  Seriously!? Who does that?!

RIght now, we still have zero tile set in mortar.  We’ve still been making frequent trips to my grandparents’ house and had friends from the city visit Friday/Saturday, so no real progress made.  Our overnight guests have had to stay at my parents’ house because our house looks  like a warzone (and our furniture is in storage), and now we are going to be stuck renting the storage unit for a third month because we are so far behind on our project.  A mantra worth reciting: People are more important than projects.

We’ve also had three major setbacks specific to the floor work, two of which we’ve shared and the third we’re discussing today:

IMG_4785The Flytrap

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The Dustbowl

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The Flat Fiasco

Flattening the floor has been a nightmare.  We don’t have access to pro products that are ideal for flashing the floor, and and we couldn’t grind down or raise our entire slab up enough to flatten the floors either. Given the risks of a two man crew with rapid set self-leveler, we went the patch and level route.  Patch and level is fine for filling in small holes, but we have MAJOR valleys for which it is insufficient.  When some of our neighbors asked about our progress and we mentioned the slab situation, they told us that they watched the last few houses in the neighborhood get built (our house was one of them) and that the inspectors had stopped coming regularly to check on the quality of the jobs. That explains A LOT.  It is clear that the crew doing our house knew (a) that no one would see how bad the slab was and (b) that forgiving flooring like carpet and vinyl tile were going to hide the atrocities committed. There’s a reputable homebuilder/remodeler in our area that we probably should have used to address this issue rather than continuing on our own, but we’re working on troubleshooting the situation in a more timely fashion than waiting in a builder’s queue (and paying $$$). Right now, the outlook’s pretty grim, but we hope to see sunlight peeking through the dust clouds soon. In the meanwhile, here’s a sneak peek of what’s motivating us to press forward: IMG_4999-1

The cats are going to LOVE it, and so are we. We love the warm brown color even better than the samples we got from a different dye lot, which had more red-orange in them.  This isn’t dry-fitted, it’s just some pieces we were using to play with pattern.  We have earned four paws of approval from Hermes but await Cleo’s verdict.

From Indoor Beach to Dust Bowl

Remember reading about the Dust Bowl in everyone’s favorite Steinbeck novel, The Grapes of Wrath? Remember how miserable everyone looked in the old black and white pictures of the Dust Bowl in our history books? Remember when we used books for learning?  Well, we now have a greater appreciation for what it was like during the Dust Bowl because we’ve gone from Indoor Beach (Yay!) to Dust Bowl (Boo!) in a matter of three weeks. Cue the sympathy symphony.

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That picture isn’t blurry.  That’s all the dust. Choke.

Last time we posted about our 40 Days of Flooring project, we had just solved our vinyl adhesive fly-trap-like sticky situation by spreading sand across our floors, resulting in an indoor beach effect. We were planning to hit the cleaning and prepping of the concrete fast and furious when tragedy struck.  My grandfather passed away, so we took a week hiatus from floors to focus on family.  I’m also continuing to travel back and forth across state lines to help take care of my grandmother while my parents tend to my grandfather’s final affairs.  This means our 40 Days of Flooring has turned into 50 Days of Flooring (if we’re lucky).

In the meanwhile, we’ve spent two weeks scrubbing, scraping, grinding, and cleaning the concrete for the underlayment and fighting the concrete dust that is now our constant companion.  Short version? Getting up the vinyl adhesive residue + paint overspray + splotches of wall/ceiling mud + poorly poured self-leveling concrete from who knows how long ago + random unidentified charred-looking black holes everywhere was is NOT. ANY. FUN. AT ALL. NOPE. NOPE. NOPE.

Long version for all you detail-oriented folks: Although the stickiness was mitigated by the sand, the adhesive was still strongly adhered to the concrete slab.  Our arsenal consisted of the following materials:

  • Long handled scraper
  • Sponge mop
  • Scrub mop
  • Grout brushes
  • Scrub brushes
  • 3 five gallon buckets (1 for dirty mop wring outs, 1 for clean water, 1 for TSP)
  • TSP
  • warm water
  • Angle grinder with adhesive removal blade
  • Heavy duty tarps and painting tarps
  • Furniture cloths (old sheets is what we used)
  • Painters’ tape
  • Dust Deputy + Shop Vac
  • Long sleeves, closed toe shoes, knee pads, eye protection, ear plugs, legit respirators, and chemical resistant glovesIMG_3816

After doing a lot of research, it became clear that we were going to have to get aggressive if we were going to subdue the adhesive.  We used TSP and our Cinderella power {aka elbow grease} (SO MUCH SCRUBBING. SO MUCH SCRAPING. RINSE. REPEAT.) to clean the formerly carpeted areas of the house. LivingRoom1

We also took the time to demo the tiled fireplace that eats into our living room floorspace. The bottom ledge that costs us in usable square footage was simply tiles laid on cement board laid on concrete block that just required a gentle love tap with a sledge hammer to come loose from the slab. Then we just had to scrape that adhesive off the slab, which turned out to be a much easier and more satisfying task than anything else. The wall tiles didn’t come off so smoothly, so we’ll have to replace that drywall when we finish the fireplace later.

IMG_3845The scrubbing and scraping work was tedious and took its toll on our hands.  I even managed to wear down an annoying palmer wart on my right middle finger that I’ve had for more than five years and was continuing to grow increasingly larger and more painful. It’s gone now, hopefully for good. Don’t want to smell like apple cider vinegar and wear duct tape? Scared of those freeze at home kits or a visit to the dermatologist? No worries. Just hand-scrub paint overspray from your whole house, though I wouldn’t recommend this particular remediation method. Also, don’t work with (or have?) wee, virus-carrying children if you don’t want warts, as I didn’t get them until after I started teaching the infectious little grubbies. 

The adhesive-stricken sections of the house were a different story entirely.  Chris had to use an angle grinder with a coating removal blade in the foyer, kitchen, dining area, laundry room, and guest bath (we are doing a major master bath reno in the next couple of years so decided to leave that room’s floor in tact  for now),IMG_3722especially in places where the original construction crew poured self-leveler to patch dips in the floor. resulting in (a) hills instead of flattened valleys and (b) a cement version of a poorly frosted cupcake. Gorgeous, no?

IMG_3844With our extremely open floor plan, this was profoundly problematic, so we bought GINORMOUS heavy duty tarps to seal off the work zone from everything else in attempt to confine the dust to the extent possible {key word: ATTEMPT}.

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We also purchased a Dust Deputy from Ace Hardware to minimize the dustiness from the grinding: IMG_3696

The Dust Deputy connects to your shop vac and filters 95% of the dust before it enters your shop vac so that the shop vac exhaust doesn’t deposit that dust back into your home.  We bought a pool vac hose (note the blue hose going into the house) so that we could put the shop vac and dust deputy OUTSIDE to minimize dust in the house even further. We have a newer shop vac but chose to use our old one so that all the concrete dust wouldn’t ‘ruin’ our new one.

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During the grinding, we were fairly certain the neighbors were going to call the Fire Department, as we set off the fire alarm and had mad crazy dust clouds billowing out the door, but they didn’t.  Not sure if this is a good or bad thing, really….Meanwhile, I cowered in the farthest away room with the cats.  Apparently I cannot breathe through a respirator, so I was not much help during this phase.

Despite sealing all visible cracks and covering everything with old sheets and protective tarps, the dust found its way into every nook and cranny of everything we own.  EVERYTHING. All our books are now dusty tomes (including my old high school copy of The Grapes of Wrath), and everything in the kitchen has needed washing multiple times, thanks to dust continuing to settle. Suffice it to say, our house is officially a living (but not breathing) diorama of the Dust Bowl, minus the abandoned farm equipment and clapboard siding.

Chris gets husby points for (a) doing all the grinding and (b) admitting that we should have done the floor demo, prep, and clean BEFORE MOVING IN like I originally wanted to do.  No glory in “I told you so” here, though.  I am suffering severe respiratory issues from all the concrete dust and probably have concrete lung {if that’s a thing, and if it isn’t, it should be}.  Chris only sneezes occasionally, and the cats seem to be doing okay, too, other than going bonkers from being kept in a confined space far from the madding crowd grind zone.

Now on to the underlayment and tile! Sneak peek:

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