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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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!

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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Prepare to be Floored

Last Thursday we made our most expensive home improvement purchase yet {gulp}….We finally ordered flooring for our whole house!  We talked about the porcelain wood plank tile we chose, Spice in the American Heritage Series by Marazzi (#3 in the pic), here.

IMG_4472We have a couple of weeks between now and the delivery date, so we will be spending that time prepping the rest of our house for flooring. This involves the following exciting (and overwhelming) activities, some of which we started last year, here,  

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and the rest that we will be tackling this week:

  • renting storage unit to store garage things and furniture so that we have room for 1850 square feet of 6 x 36 wood look porcelain tile coming on 4 pallets (and can move furniture out in sections to prep floors and lay tile) (did this Tues)
  • moving garage things and furniture to said storage unit (Wed-Thurs)
  • removing baseboards and shoe moulding (carefully) (Fri)
  • ripping up carpet, carpet pads, tack strips and hauling to curb for pick up (Thurs-Fri)
  • renting PRO scraper from Big Orange and scraping up vinyl tiles, glue, and paint and hauling to curb for pick up (Sat)
  • patching holes and cracks in concrete, sanding, cleaning, and flattening where needed
  • purchasing and installing DITRA (maybe/maybe not) Update: We are definitely going with DITRA!
  • purchasing DITRAset and other supplies as needed (trowels, etc.)
  • snapping chalk lines to form grid and dry-fitting tile
  • purchasing a commercial wet saw (none for rent in our area are large enough to rip 36″ tile) [if needed, based on our dry-fit]
  • pre-cutting tile

Fun times, right? Or crazy times.  Getting ALLLLLL this done in two weeks while working should be interesting. Oh, and we have a fence to finish, too. If you want to track our progress in more real time, check us out on Instagram: @kazoopartyoftwo

Here goes nothing!

And the {Floor} Winner Is….

Recently we shared about our plans to lay wood look tile throughout our home (here), and we had these contestants in the Final Four for the Floor: IMG_4472Can you guess which one we chose?

If you guessed #3, you nailed it! #3 is called American Heritage (color Spice) by Marazzi.  We were really torn between it and the Storka Barnwood in Pecan (#1), but we ultimately decided that the Spice had the warmth we really wanted most, while the Barnwood was a little too rustic for this particular house if we ever need to resell.  Also, after ‘touching up’ the chips with Sharpies and being disappointed at first, they are now virtually unnoticeable. American Heritage for the win!

We are now looking at grout options and are leaning towards the bottom color, which is called French Gray by Bostik:

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We can’t wait to see those floors seamlessly flowing from room to room, but next up is some seriously whole-house floor demo as well as ripping out a linen closet and pantry.  Grab your crowbars, folks, and let the countdown to #demolition2015 begin!

Master Closet Part III: Remix

In last week’s great purge of our master bedroom closet, we cleared out our closet in order to scrape ceilings, paint walls, rip out carpet, and add more racks for storage, using leftover wire shelving from our garage that we took down to make room for paddle board racks.  Chris also attempted to put on pants from high school. Spoiler alert: They didn’t fit.

We painted the walls before doing anything else (usually we wouldn’t), primarily because the taller KaZoo was on work-related travel, and the shorter KaZoo couldn’t reach the ceiling well enough to handle the scrape, patch, sand, prime, and paint all by herself. When Mr. KaZoo left, the closet looked like this:

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When he returned, he found the closet looking like this:

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Then we combined forces to tackle the ceiling.  Our usual prepwork involves removing the carpet, tarping off things we don’t want covered in dust, and then scraping the ceiling, but this time, we used the carpet as a floor tarp to catch all of the popcorn debris raining down since the carpet was going to be leaving anyway.  I don’t recommend this unless you like slogging through a sea of popcorn ceiling and shag carpet while covered in drywall dust.    We first tried the dry-method of popcorn removal–simply scraping away at it.  Although this method resulted in fewer scratches and fuzzy places in the drywall, it was also considerably more tedious than the wet method we have used in the past.  We normally use one of those garden sprayers, but ours had recently been used for weed killer, so we just used a regular spray bottle filled with water to mist the ceiling, rather than gassing ourselves in the closet.  After waiting a few minutes for the water to saturate the popcorn, it came off in nice, soggy strips, rather than little chippy dry sections.2014-09-25 14.42.49

We brushed everything down to get rid of residual dust on the ceiling surface, applied joint compound to areas needing to be smoother, and let that dry overnight.  The next day, we sanded, brushed, and sponged everything down (again), after which we ripped out the carpet.
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After vacuuming up the residual dust and debris, we were ready to paint the ceiling.  We decided to paint the ceiling the same color as the walls (Sherwin Williams Sea Salt) for three reasons (a) We have plenty of it. (b) It is not the typical white. (c) It is light enough to not make the closet feel like it is caving in on us while trying to find clothes in the morning.


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While waiting for the painted ceiling to dry, we measured and cut the extra wire racks we removed from the garage to be the sizes we needed for the closet.  Then we forged ahead to installing the racks.  This was a tedious process that took the form of this cycle:

  1. Chris holds rack while Amy marks one spot for height and width of crevice between wires for wall bracket.
  2. Amy uses level to measure and mark all spots for back wall brackets and side brackets.
  3. Chris drills holes for all back and side brackets.
  4. Amy and Chris hammer in the anchors and nail-ish things (we like to use the technical language for things around here, in case you haven’t noticed).  The instructions said to tap gently, but the long wall had extra plywood backing that meant we had to break out our steel-driving John Henry skills.  We’re fairly certain we woke up the neighbor’s baby doing this, which means our neighbors probably had a great Friday night. Except not at all.  
  5. Amy and Chris snap wire rack into place and set into side wall bracket.
  6. Chris adds C-clamps for maximum support, using a manual screwdriver.  The directions said to use 1 1/2 inch screws.  This was a total impossibility, and we ended up using 1 1/4 inch screws instead, with much more success.
  7. Amy holds support arm brackets in place while Chris drills holes, taps in anchor, and hammers in the nail-ish things.
  8. Repeat four times.

After installation of all the racks, I sponge-washed the walls to get rid of residual dust from the drilling and vacuumed the baseboards and floor.  Once we installed the racks in their new location, the closet started looking less like a secret safe room and more like an actual closet.  Of course, adding clothes back in the closet helped with that, too.

To plan the new location of our racks (and determine the measurements for our cuts), we inventoried how many categories of clothing items we had (i.e., how many skirts, pants, shirts, dresses, etc.) and decided where it would be best to hang the respective categories.   We decided to do two long racks (keeping the existing long rack plus a new long rack cut from the garage shelving), one for each of us to hang our shirts and pants.

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With the residual section of the garage rack, we made another short shelf/rack for my shorts and knee length skirts to hang opposite the long wall.  We trimmed an existing closet rack to fit the same wall for my long skirts and capri pants.
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We decided that a galley-like closet arrangement was more functional than the previous corner system that rendered part of each shelf useless for hanging items where they t-boned into each other.  Plus, this provides easier access to the outlet and gives us a nice path for a runner rug.  Not that room for a rug was a major part of our planning and decision making, but having a rug over the concrete floors (until we get our wood-look porcelain tile) definitely softens things up a bit underfoot.

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The mid-sized existing rack we raised a few inches to allow for long dress and suit storage for both of us, storage for my purses, and room for Chris’s shoes.
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While cutting the shelving, Chris noticed that the garage wire racks weren’t the same kind of rack as the ones already in our closet: They didn’t have the clothing “bar” at the bottom.  Aesthetically, we thought it may not look the best, but after install, it is barely noticeable and is actually a functional improvement in some ways because the divided sections keep you from cramming too many clothes in one location..  Plus, if we upgrade to a real closet system down the road, we only have to live with the mismatch for awhile. Given my perfectionistic, OCD tendencies, I really thought it would bother me more than it does.  Maybe I’m too short to really see the top rack, so I don’t notice the difference.IMG_3198

 

I hung my flip-flop shoe organizer back over the door, and we mounted our coat rack behind the door to hold hats and scarves.
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On the left wall (as you enter the closet), we brought the 3 x 3 Cherry Cubeical back, which is currently holding my swimsuits, swimsuit cover ups, board shorts, work shorts, and work pants.

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Note: The purple labels hanging on the blue handles differentiate my ocean swimsuits from my pool suits.  This may seem ridiculous to some of you, but if you have ever had a home with a pool, this may make some sense to you.  Basically, if you wear a swimsuit in the ocean and then wear it again to swim in a pool, you can introduce algae to that pool, and algae (especially some kinds) are hard to eliminate from a pool.  If you wash your swimsuit in hot water every time you swim in the ocean before swimming in a pool to “kill” living organisms, there still may be some algae stuck to it (especially if you have a lined swimsuit), and your swimsuit may now be faded and ill-fitting. A simple rinse of your suit between ocean and pool or showering in your swimsuit between venues does not suffice. Since I frequent both the pool and the ocean, I handwash my suits after wearing them and choose to keep two different sets of suits to avoid the risk of contamination.  

The middle sections of the Cubeical are currently empty (!), but I’m sure they’ll be filled soon, too.  We also added some interest to the wall in the form of a pinboard with a coral motif, a panoramic photograph of Neyland Stadium, and Chris’s diploma (because where do you hang those if you don’t have a dedicated home office or man cave)?  My diplomas aren’t framed, so they don’t get a place of honor in the closet like his does.  Maybe someday I’ll get around to framing my first two diplomas.  Probably about the time I frame my third and final one. Which could be never at the rate my dissertation is going.

Eventually we plan to upgrade the light fixture from its mushroom-like state, add the wood-look tile I mentioned earlier, and install a real closet system, perhaps with some additional shelf lighting to help with visibility.  For now, our under $100 fix will work just fine.

Organizing Clothing:

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For Chris’s clothes, organizing was simply a matter of hanging his shirts from dressy to casual, followed by his pants, also from dressy to casual. My clothes required a little more work, and I organized them in a slightly unconventional way.  I typically sort by kind of article and keep like with like: dresses with dresses, shorts with shorts, etc.  For shirts, I normally vacillate between organizing by color and by category (business casual, casual) as the primary category, followed by type (sleeveless, short sleeve, 3/4 sleeve, long sleeve).  On the one hand, I like organizing by color because there is just something harmonious about color continuity that I prefer, but I keep wearing the same tops over and over because I know how to pair them with other things to make outfits, rendering much of my wardrobe useless.  On the other hand, organizing by category shows me more options for particular occasions, thus increasing the likelihood I try wearing something different than usual, but walking into the closet is a visual jarring experience that makes selecting anything difficult.  When re-doing this closet, I decided to analyze my clothing pitfalls and use that to come up with a happy medium.

I frequently find myself stuck in three kinds of clothing ruts: (1) I wear the same tops/outfits over and over. (2) I prefer casual to dressy.  (3) I gravitate to neutrals. After having to conduct my dissertation research out of state and live in a hotel for six weeks, I re-learned the art of capsule wardrobes.  I used to be good at this when traveling internationally.  In high school, I took a small size carry-on for a month in Europe and laughed at all my friends lugging giant Samsonites up nine flights of stairs in Greece. I love the simplicity of capsule wardrobes.  I am a minimalist at heart, so having a closet full of clothes overwhelms me with too many possibilities.  Consequently, I’m planning to start cataloguing outfit ideas, beginning with my neutrals that I love.  Rather than fighting my preference for neutrals, I’m going to use that as the starting point for developing my outfit building skills, essentially building a capsule wardrobe with neutrals as the base.

My neutrals are sorted into three categories: up, up/down, and down, a.k.a. classy, convertible, and comfortable. Up clothes are dressier and more likely to be considered businesswear in a traditional workplace setting.  Items in this category are more likely to closely resemble menswear and/or have an element of elegance about them, such as being made of better material, adding a touch of lace or silk, or creating an interesting neckline or back.   Clothes in this category have a certain feature that makes them seem classy.

I love gray, but I hate gray areas.  The murky gray clothing area is what I call up/down wear, or clothing which can either dress up an outfit or dress it down.  Clothes that could be considered business casual in a less formal work environment or in a trendier/artsy environment fall in this category.  To qualify as an up/down top, the style and cut of shirt is likely based less on menswear and/or may be made of a material that makes it appear more casual.  For example, the blouse on the left is an “up” blouse, but the one on the right is an “up/down” blouse because of the material and style. Note the sleeves of the blouse on the left are nicely cuffed, whereas the sleeves on the right blouse aren’t.  I would wear up/down clothes when I’m wanting to appear put-together, but not necessarily needing to be “polished.” Here, the emphasis is on the versatility of the piece–can it be easily converted from work to play?

Down clothes are items like basic tees and polo shirts–anything that is decidedly more casual or sporty.  That’s not to say I wouldn’t throw a blazer over a tee and turn it into a work outfit (my default, in fact), but the tee itself has a dressed down, at home, casual feel, where comfort is king. This is literally my comfort zone when it comes to clothes.

The rest of my tops are organized by color.  Here at the coast, the weather is warm enough year round that having entire sections of my closet devoted to long sleeves is unnecessary, but because the air temperature can feel cool in the early mornings and evenings, even in summer, having access to all kinds of sleeves year round is essential.  Consequently, I elected not to do the secondary sort I typically do by sleeve length.

We’ll see how “the best of both worlds” turns out.

Demolition Diaries: Cleaning up the ‘Hood

When we bought the ‘Zoo, we knew that most of the things in the kitchen needed to be replaced sooner or later, starting with appliances for functionality.   The ‘Zoo came with these gems of a hood and range, you may recall:

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Substituting the existing fridge with ours and installing a new gas range were major improvements, but after Chris began cooking on the gas range, he realized the ineptitude of our recirculating range hood meant another appliance purchase.  Best way to describe it? It performed at two settings: wimpy and wimpier, accompanied by a whining sound to mask its false industry.

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Meanwhile, I was still living in the city, so I began trolling Craigslist for possible options, where I spotted an ad for this Bosch chimney hood for $350 (retails for $899-$999).  The price was a little higher than what we would pay for a nice recirculating hood at a big box store, but it was also a much better hood than those we could normally afford.  Plus, it’s better to vent outside, especially with gas, so we thought it might be worth investigating.

 

(Picture courtesy of Houzz)

I called to ask some questions and found out it was being sold by a kitchen/bath design store because it was installed in a kitchen model but never used.  It had some scratches that didn’t seem too noticeable, so we decided if it was still available the following weekend, we would take a look.  Why wait, you ask? We wanted to give the purchase some thought since it was really more than we’d originally planned to pay but knew it was a great deal.

Sure enough, the hood was still available the following weekend, and it was way more functional than our existing hood.  After I pointed out a gouged out section in the insulation for the electric cord that had not been mentioned in the ad or when I called to inquire about it (they hadn’t noticed it because it was on the side of the cord you couldn’t see without really looking closely and feeling around), they agreed to knock the price down to $325.  We walked away with the hood for $358 (we did have to pay tax because we bought it from a home design store but thought it was worth it).

We also had to purchase a mounting kit ($11.97) and brackets (2 @ $7.99 each) plus $8.99 shipping because the person who uninstalled the hood from the model kitchen didn’t keep all the parts.  We also purchased some Sugru from Amazon for $22 to patch the insulation instead of buying a $27 plus shipping for a replacement cord, bringing our total purchase to $416.94.  Compared to buying it new at the lowest retail price we could find, we had a total savings of $482.06.

Time for Amy’s demo dance (yes, this is a thing)!

Last weekend, we uninstalled the old wimpy hood and discovered this awesomeness:

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Apparently the builder’s crew didn’t install an outlet for the hood and couldn’t find where to hardwire it, so they hired a woodpecker drilled holes in the drywall until they found electrical.  Then they didn’t bother to clean up their mess because it was hidden by the old hood. Classy, huh?

This means we will be installing a new outlet and doing some serious dry wall patching in addition to taking down the upper cabinets so the new range hood can be installed.  While we’re doing electrical work, we’ll go ahead and install the outlet for the range that was missing (you can read more about that here).  Keep your wires fingers crossed that all goes well!

Demolition Diaries: R.I.P., Nasty Carpet

You know how Mista Lista said that sometimes things don’t go as planned?  Mista Lista was right.  Just after we closed on the house and had the gas heat turned on, I noticed a peculiar, unplaceable smell emanating from the front bedroom–a smell that had NOT been there when we walked through it multiple times.  Chris and my parents didn’t notice it until I brought the issue to their attention, but once I mentioned it, they could smell it, too (Ah, the power of suggestion).  We tried several solutions to get rid of the smell (airing out room for days on end, containers of baking soda and vinegar, sprinkling baking soda, carpet cleaner, and deodorizer, etc.) to no avail.  Chris didn’t really seem to notice, but I’m very sensitive to smells, especially bad smells.  It reminded me of an old nursing home.

Call me crazy, but when I went to FL for my ‘spring break’ I couldn’t take it any longer.  I couldn’t stay inside the house without getting a headache.  I asked one of my neighbors, a stay-at-home mom who seemed very knowledgeable about the goings-on at our house (maybe a little too knowledgable), if the former inhabitants were smokers, pet owners, etc.  According to her, there was no smell in the front room, they weren’t smokers, and they kept their dog at the back of the house on the vinyl tile.  I wasn’t so sure.  I noticed that some of the boxes of our things Chris had stored in the front room’s closet were starting to smell, too.  Noooo!  I bravely went around sniffing the room and determined that the primary source of the bad odor was definitely the carpet, hence why boxes sitting on the carpet smelled bad, but not the boxes on top of other boxes.  I moved all of our things out of the room.  I also noticed that the smell seemed to be drifting into the guest hall, guest bath, and the other bedroom.  The carpet had to go. 

I resorted to drastic measures.  First, I called Chris waste management to set up a bulk pickup appointment for carpet.  They told me it would be two days before pick up, and that I needed to have at least two rooms of carpet to justify the pickup.  That meant I had two days to get the carpet out of the entire front of the house. I stopped by my parents’ house for tools from my dad.  They acted surprised (and a little dubious) that I was going to tear out the carpet by myself.  But remember:

Though she be but little she is fierce. ~Shakespeare

I started in a corner, making cuts with my box cutter along the baseboard along both walls meeting in the corner until I had enough to grip.  Then, I tugged, and the carpet heavens opened the carpet pulled away from the tack strips.  I could have rolled that nasty carpet up in a single roll, but I would not have been able to get it out of the room singlehandedly. I took my dad’s suggestion and cut it into manageable strips around 2 feet in width.  Once I started rolling the carpet back, I saw the signs: huge stains on every section of carpet. Clearly, someone had had an accident (or twelve) in that room.  You can imagine my disgust.

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The stains fueled my enthusiasm for the task, and with renewed vigor, I attacked the rug pad, slicing along the duct taped divisions and cutting it into sections.

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The rug pad was more difficult to dissect into strips because it was disintegrating into nasty little chunks and stuck to the concrete pad where the installers had run a bead of glue around the perimeter of the room.

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After the rug pad was torn out, I started prying up the tack strips and the concrete nails holding them down.  The installers obviously didn’t want those tack strips to move because there must have been a thousand concrete nails I had to remove one at a time (the tack strips were pretty much rotted and thus splintered into numerous bits and pieces).  I swept up the residual refuse and shop-vac’d around the baseboards to ensure I got all remaining pieces of the foul flooring.

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Within an hour and a half, the dirty deed was done.

And the room smelled better.  

Only better.

What?!?!

Part of the weird smell was removed with the carpet and rug pad, but now there was a definite smoker smell.  If there is one smell that we loathe above all others, it is smoker smell, especially since it is one of my many allergies.  Our home was advertised as a smoke-free home, and it had not smelled like that before.  From what we could surmise,  three possible scenarios came to mind:

  1. A + C leave the windows open to air out the carpet odor.  Random neighbor person walking his dog and smoking lingers at the front of our house, curious as to who the new people are.  Smoke drifts inside through the open window, adding to the funky smell in the room.
  2. To close on the house, the door frame wood has to be patched, painted, and pass inspection a few days prior.  The worker(s) smoke in the yard, but with the windows open due to paint odor, the smoke drifts inside.
  3. Option 2, except that the worker(s) actually smoke in the front room because it is raining, thinking with the windows open and the fan on, the smell will dissipate and no one will notice.

Whatever the situation, I was dealing with smoke when I should not have been, and I was not a happy camper.  When Chris came home, he agreed it smelled like smoke.  The walls didn’t smell, but the room still did.  No way was I going to stand by and let our family suffer third-hand smoke damage (seriously, this is a thing, people).  It was time for more troubleshooting.

I did some online research and learned three things: 1.  We needed to clean the room’s walls hardcore even if they didn’t smell bad.  2.  We needed to use odor-locking/blocking primer and odor-eliminating paint to seal in the bad smell and hopefully eliminate it once and for all.  3.  We needed to de-popcornify our ceiling (yes, that’s a word I just made up).  Apparently popcorn ceilings are notoriously bad at harboring smokiness, so we needed to scrape and clean the ceilings.

The demolition job had only just begun.

We aren’t huge fans of popcorn ceilings and had planned to clean and paint anyway, but not immediately.  Unfortunately, we needed to address the lingering smoke problem quickly before it permeated the whole house and all of our things that Chris had been steadily transporting from the city to to the coast.  Fortunately, we had a little money saved up to tackle the issue because we had planned to do these things relatively soon anyway.  I headed for Sherwin Williams and came home with the products I needed, plus an extra can of paint for the other bedroom, thanks to the good sale they were having plus coupons I had from Pottery Barn and my preferred member discount.  I essentially got three gallons of odor-fighting, premium paint for the price of one.  Yay!

Since I now had enough paint for both guest bedrooms and the clock was ticking on my bulk pickup, I went back to attacking the carpet in the other bedroom and the hallway that connects the two guest rooms.  Wouldn’t you know, the other bedroom and hallway carpet were also stained, hence why the smell was present in those locations, too.  There weren’t as many stains, but it was still gross enough to merit a swift elimination.

There was one additional complication of removing the carpet from the hallway, though: The tack strips had been nailed through the vinyl tile in the bathroom entryway and in the doorway to the foyer, and there were some rusty concrete nails that were still stuck into the vinyl tile after I pried the tack strips up.

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I couldn’t get the crowbar (or anything) underneath the head of the nails to pry them up because of the slick-yet-sticky, stupid vinyl tiles.  This meant tearing out some of the vinyl tile (tragedy) in order to eliminate the possibility of tetanus.  If you give a DIYer a crowbar….

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Overall, I overfilled ten contractor trash bags full of putrid, disgusting flooring material.  I’m glad to say all the carpet has been hauled away, although there was a mix up and it didn’t get picked up right away.  When I say mix up, I really mean a big problem: I called Waste Management on Wednesday morning to schedule the bulk pickup.  I was told to put the carpet out Thursday night and that it would be picked up sometime on Friday.  By Friday at 4:00 p.m., the carpet was still by the road, so I called again.

Apparently, someone unbeknown to us cancelled our account with Waste Management on Wednesday afternoon (despite the fact that we had paid for services for the entire quarter), so our bulk pickup request was never routed to the local folks who actually collect items.  Say what?! We were astounded to learn that you can cancel someone’s (anyone’s?) trash services with Waste Management by simply providing the address. We suspicion that the former homeowner may have called to cancel his service at our address and that the representative with whom he spoke cancelled our service at our address, but what a coincidence that it happened to be the exact same day right after I had called to schedule the bulk pickup.  Waste Management apologized for the inconvenience/misunderstanding and rescheduled our pickup for the next week, since it was late Friday.

We hauled the bags of carpet and refuse into the garage over the weekend and then back out to the curb.  Once again, the carpet was not picked up, so we called a third time.  Waste Management apologized again and submitted a third request.  By now, I was starting to worry that the neighbors would think we didn’t know that you had to call for bulk pickup and that we were fast becoming the pickup pariahs of the neighborhood.  (“Look, Maude, those fool youngsters left their carpet out again.  Don’t they know you’re supposed to call first?  That’s what happens when the house prices drop–you get a bunch of young riff-raff who don’t care about the neighborhood and don’t follow the rules.  We’d better call the HOA president.”)  Shortly after the third request was submitted, we received a call from the local WM people who apologized profusely and said that the carpet would be picked up the next morning as the first pickup location.  It was gone before Chris left for work.   They also gave us their direct line and said we could contact them directly regarding pickups, given our previous difficulties.  We sincerely hope that Waste Management starts asking  callers for additional information pertinent to the account before stopping service to someone’s home so that this doesn’t happen to other people (or to us again!).

R.I.P., nasty carpet.  Of course we do still have the living room and master bedroom to rip out, and I foresee that happening very soon, now that we know how disgusting the carpet is, even in places that aren’t oozing Great Uncle Vernon and his dog smell (We are sure that there are very nice smelling Great Uncle Vernons and their dogs out there, just not the fictitious one that occupied our front bedroom).    Until then, smell you later, carpet.

Update: We have since found out from a different neighbor that previous inhabitants DID keep their dog penned in the front areas, which definitely explains the stains/smells. Poor baby–locked up without access to a proper place to go (hello, fenced in backyard, people!).  Accidents happen, and some pets have special needs.  Regardless, if you are a family that includes animals, please be responsible for your pet’s welfare by providing appropriate venues and sufficient opportunities for elimination–for their sake and everyone else’s.

For those of you who are wondering about what has replaced the carpet, the answer is (drumroll, please)…..nothing.  That’s right, those rooms have had concrete slab floors for several weeks now and will likely stay that way for some time until we have saved up for the good hardwoods we want.  Mista Lista approves this plan, even if it means that some of our soon-to-be-arriving guests will have cold feet.  In the spring/summer heat, that’s not necessarily a bad thing at the coast!