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. 😉

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.

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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A Sticky Situation: The Giant Fly Trap That Is Our House

This time last week, we were eagerly preparing to begin the laborious task of floor prep for our new tile.  Here’s the recap of what we accomplished through Sunday:

  • 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)
  • ripping up carpet, carpet pads, tack strips and hauling to curb for pick up (Thurs-Fri)
  • renting PRO stripper from Big Orange and scraping up vinyl tiles, glue, and paint and hauling to curb for pick up (Sat)
  • purchasing  DITRA 
  • purchasing DITRAset and other supplies as needed (trowels, etc.)

IMG_4778Note that the HD PRO stripper we rented did not get up the glue and paint as hoped (and advertised…MAJOR WOMP WOMP), so we applied natural, nontoxic solvents and even resorted to Goo Gone, plus a lot of elbow grease, to try to get the sticky up, but to no avail. Oh sure, we knew the 20 year old vinyl tile and its adhesive would be a chore to remove, but man-oh-man.  Arduous doesn’t even begin to describe it. The stripper did get some of the glue up, but whoever originally installed the vinyl tile before applied so much glue that the stripper couldn’t get deep enough in the sticky mire to strip down to the concrete.IMG_4785 The glue was also pulling up chunks of concrete with it, so we are wondering if whoever did the concrete slab didn’t use enough water, resulting in a crumbly crust, which we like on some things (apple crisp?) but not on our foundation.  Good thing we were already planning on patching holes and flashing the floor.  As it stands right now, our house is officially a giant fly trap.  Seriously.  Stand in one place for more than 1 second and your shoes are stuck fast.  Try to walk, and you’ll walk out of your stuck shoes onto the most disgusting flooring ever.  If you are building or remodeling your own home, please do not use horrible products like vinyl and vinyl adhesive in your house if at all possible.  Bad all around.  At least ours didn’t contain asbestos…and it was picked up within 2 hours of being hauled to the curb….

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You may be wondering why we decided to get rid of these super stuck floors in the first place if they were so “well done” initially.  If we had sheet vinyl, maybe we would have kept it as is for a longer time and eventually tiled over it.  However, these delaminating vinyl tiles were installed with little faux grout lines over a slab that clearly has significant enough hills and valleys to merit concern about tiling over without flattening. Dirt collects in the faux grout lines that then sticks to the adhesive spread underneath, rendering it impossible to vacuum, sweep, mop, etc., and the hills and valleys mean that eventually any tile we would install over it would buckle and crack.

In DIY land, Big Orange and Big Blue are helpful to a certain extent, but they have their limitations.  We know there are more potent (and also flammable, noxious) solvents for remediating our sticky situation, but we were trying to avoid this at all costs.  When seeking other possible methods, the flooring “specialist” with whom we spoke at Big Blue wondered (a) why we didn’t want to keep the vinyl tile (erm, what tha what?) and (b) now that we had already stripped the tile, why didn’t we just tile over the adhesive despite the hills and valleys (there. are. no. words.).  This goes against EVERY recommendation from tile installation experts and every instinct I have, based on the tiling I’ve done in the past.  I’m not one to call people dolts, and we normally love Lowe’s.  BUT COME ON, PEOPLE.  Clearly this guy knows zilch about tile installation and should not be in charge of the flooring department.  We walked away empty-handed and fairly disgruntled, especially because he shouted, rather aggressively, “Don’t walk away from me,” as we were walking away.  He was rude, patronizing, unknowledgeable, and a bully, at best.  In sharp contrast, the flooring lady at Big Orange recommended using a concrete grinder with a wheel of blades designed to scrape up the adhesive and paint after she and her husband ran into the same issue in their home.  He painstakingly ground away at the gunk from 3 layers of vinyl (Three! The Horror!) using a handheld angle grinder on their own concrete slab and did such a good job that they were able to polish the concrete. Pretty amazing. Even though she was delivering somewhat discouraging news about what it would take to solve our problem, her willingness to help and gracious, understanding attitude scored Home Depot a purchase of an angle grinder and coating removal wheel of terror.

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Now that we are going to be meticulously grinding away the grime in each room, I’ve had to make a more detailed plan of attack.  The layout of our home is just open and juuuuust closed enough to be problematic for floor work in sections in the limited time we have together after work while still having access to an entry/exit, a bathroom, and room for furniture that we cannot store in the interim anywhere else because we refuse to pay to move it AGAIN {read: baby grand}.  Here’s the breakdown of what’s next on the 40 Days to the Floors We Love list:

  1. Mon: Amy paints guest hall (GH), laundry room (LAR), and master hall (MH) while Chris takes out shoe mouldings + baseboards (we didn’t have time to do this as planned prior to stripping)
  2. Tues: Amy paints second coat in BR2 and BR3 while Chris grinds LAR + MH
  3. Wed: Amy patches LAR concrete  while Chris grinds BR2 + BR3 + GH
  4. Thurs: Amy patches BR2 + BR3 + GH concrete while Chris grinds foyer (F) and living room (LR)
  5. Fri: Flash BR2 + BR3 + GH; demo fireplace tile
  6. Sat: Amy patches F + LR concrete while Chris grinds kitchen (K) and dining room (DR)
  7. Sun: A + C go to tile school at HD (refresher for Amy, first time for Chris)
  8. Mon: Flash F + LR (except for study nook = path to backdoor from MBR)
  9. Tues: Move life to guest suite, clear MBR
  10. Wed: Amy patches K + DR concrete while Chris grinds MBR
  11. Thurs: Patch MBR + MH concrete
  12. Fri: Flash MBR + MH
  13. Sat: Flash DR + Study Nook of LR
  14. Sun: Rest
  15. Mon: Ditra LAR + MBR + M. Hall
  16. Tues: Mark + Dry-fit LR Tile
  17. Wed: Mark + Tile Laundry
  18. Thurs: Mark + Tile MBR
  19. Fri: Grout Laundry
  20. Sat: Grout MBR
  21. Sun: Rest
  22. Mon: Mark + Tile Master Hall
  23. Tues: Ditra DR + Study Nook
  24. Wed: Grout Master Hall
  25. Thurs: Mark + Tile DR + Study Nook
  26. Fri: Ditra BR2 + 1/2 G. Hall
  27. Sat: Grout DR + Study Nook
  28. Sun: Rest + move life back to master suite
  29. Mon: Mark + Tile BR2 + 1/2 G. Hall
  30. Tues: Ditra BR3 + GBA + 1/2 G. Hall
  31. Wed: Grout BR2 + 1/2 G. Hall
  32. Thurs: Mark + Tile BR3 + GBA + 1/2 G. Hall
  33. Fri: Ditra Music Nook
  34. Sat: Grout BR3 + GBA + 1/2 G. Hall
  35. Sun: Rest
  36. Mon: Mark + Tile Music Nook
  37. Tues: Ditra Living Room + Foyer
  38. Wed: Grout Music Nook
  39. Thurs: Mark + Tile Living Room + Foyer
  40. Fri: Grout Living Room + Foyer

Even if we don’t stick to the 40 day plan, we will definitely be knocking out the floor project in this order.  Goodbye, sanity; hello, blisters!

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!

Furniture Fridays: Caster(ed), the Friendly Furniture

Confession: I love furniture with casters.  In fact, sometimes I wonder why all furniture doesn’t come with casters.  So for the first Furniture Friday post, let’s talk casters and why they make furniture friendly!

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Top Ten Reasons All Furniture Should Be on Casters:

  1. Cleaning: I may not be Susie Q. Homemaker, but I am rather OCD, especially when it comes to a clean home.  It is my sworn mission to launch frequent cleaning assaults on dust mites lurking in the carpets and upholstery in particular.  Unfortunately, instead of mass-cleaning in one fell swoop, I find myself turning the vacuum cleaner on and off constantly while I move furniture around to make sure all areas of the carpet and rugs get vacuumed properly. Trust me: There is simple satisfaction in being able to relocate furniture with a nudge while continuing to vacuum, instead of waiting for your spouse to help you move the 92″ sofa where the dust mites are marshaling their troops (or wrenching your back trying to strong-arm it one-handed yourself: See #4). Oh sure, I may not move the furniture every time I clean, but I’d really like to avoid the nightmares about dust bunniculas that haunt me when I don’t move the furniture.
  2. Clutter Magnets (also known as Kids): We don’t have kids yet, but I know a lot of blogger buddies and friends who do.  From what I can tell, the average child leaves a room looking like an F5 tornado swept through recently.   In the FEMA-worthy clean-up that follows, some toys are never found in the wreckage: Presumably they took shelter under a sturdy piece of furniture and are still in the back corner, cowering in fear of being sucked into the tornado by giant, grabbing hands covered in marker and saliva (and who knows what else).  Of course, this leads to the inevitable meltdown when your kids set out to build the perfect Lego masterpiece, only to discover that a few essential pieces are missing.  Utter frustration.  Flash forward a few years when you move into a larger home to accommodate your growing family and discover those missing pieces under the bedroom dresser.  Someone in the family shouts, “My Legoooooooooos!” and then, because the Legos have already been packed, those stray pieces get thrown in a random box, never to be seen again…at least until the next move when you are empty nesters downsizing and your children are “too old” to play with Legos because they are now (gasp) adults.  Then, because you are a sentimental parent (or maybe you are the adult children who secretly still love your Legos and want to save every piece of your childhood), you end up with a Ziploc bag of random toy parts in a drawer in the guest room and Hogwarts in a box under your bed, waiting for (grand)children (someday).  Okay, fine.  I bought the Harry Potter Legos when I was in college.  But still.  #NeverTooOldForLegos
  3. Companions (i.e., your other children): We do have animal companions in the form of two spoiled cats.  They have toys, too. Lots of small toys that squeak, shake, jingle, or roll, typically under things out of reach (Note: This picture clearly shows a ball within human reach, but you get the idea).  IMG_2332How many of you have a pet that pouts when his/her favorite toy is under something and he/she can’t reach it?  My cat just falls asleep where his toy is lost, but he’s not exactly an active breed.  My husband’s cat, however, is a different story entirely.  She will whine and fidget in front of a piece of furniture until someone rescues her toy from underneath it, which is usually rather quickly because a Siamesesque shriek is hard to ignore (Siamesesque because she is a rescue cat that has seal-point Siamese markings, but we think she isn’t a purebred).  Usually this rescue mission involves a contortionist act with a Swiffer duster and shoulder dislocation, which brings us to #4.
  4. Critical Injuries: How many people land themselves a visit to the chiropractor trying to unearth toys for sobbing children and whining pets?  If you are a DIYer, go ahead and triple that number.  DIYers probably experience an above average number of accidents (and ER trips) resulting from assuming they have super-human powers (but come on, everyone’s favorite superheroes have a weakness here or there, so aren’t DIYers allowed a few tragic flaws, too?).  A trip to the ER is fairly expensive these days, so if you are a DIYer with pets and children, stock up on Aleve. You’ll need it unless you have mobile furniture that reduces the frequency of opportunities for neck strain and shoulder separation.
  5. Company: As an only child, my childhood involved having lots of people over to my house for pool parties and sleepovers.  Wouldn’t games of Twister have been much easier if the furniture easily rolled back?  Nowadays, when we get together with my husband’s family, the inevitable Xbox 360 dance marathons or Wii Sports games involve lots of action and the need for lots of space.  Furniture relocation for game nights is a cinch if everything rolls in/out.  
     Roll it out for dance sessions and roll it back in place for boardgames. Because who wants to injure their backs before the dance marathon happens? Not this kid, especially since Kinect dance-offs are the only thing I usually win when playing games with my husband’s extremely competitive family.  My family is only competitive when it comes to SEC football, but piling a bunch of people into a room to yell at the TV watch football comfortably would be helped by rolling furniture, too!
  6. Christmas/Holidays: Company frequently coincides with the holidays, no matter what holiday you might be celebrating.  More people = more furniture and less room for it.  If you celebrate Christmas like we do, there may also be the addition of a tree or two (or several).   Trees need space, which involves moving even more furniture. Casters make Christmas (and Christmas decorating) a happier time.  And who doesn’t want to have a happy holiday?
  7. Creative Whims: Decorating for Christmas certainly necessitates furniture finagling to fit everything and everyone in the room together cozily yet happily.  However, if you are like me, a creative whim to change decor and rearrange furniture can strike at any moment–not just the holidays.   Casters make it possible to cater to your creative whims, especially if creative inspiration usually strikes you when you’re home alone but don’t want to wait to try out your new idea until reinforcements arrive.
  8. Cross-country Moving: Whether moving cross-country or cross-city, you may not always have the financial resources to hire a professional moving company or be fortunate enough to have your company pay for movers if relocating to a new job/job site.  I have lived in 5 states and have moved 14 times in 29 years.  Only twice did those moves involve professional movers.  Moving furniture would be much simpler if everything rolled so that you could save your strength for lifting across thresholds and up ridiculously narrow ramps and staircases.  Plus, you wouldn’t have to use those small, rolling dollies that seem prone to wiggle out from under furniture at the worst possible times and are best suited for pet skateboards (or beds, in this case, thanks to the soft towel laid on top to protect the sofa in transit to make it more comfortable).  IMG_2331
  9. Critters: The Great Mouse Roach Hunt: This section is not for the faint of heart.  We currently live in a townhouse with neighbors on both sides.  We have perfectly wonderful neighbors on one side, and interesting neighbors on the other (interesting: a Southern female euphemism for less than savory).  These interesting neighbors have habits that seem to invite critters of the six- and eight-legged variety.  I won’t go into detail, but let’s just say that the combination of a mild winter and dry summer plus those neighbors has led to critters finding their way to our home, too.  We have regular pest control services (and our service provider is absolutely fantastic!), but last weekend we saw a ginormous roach emerge from the floorboard along the wall we share with those neighbors.  Neither of us had seen a roach that big since dorm days.  It zoomed under furniture, up walls, and even attempted to fly-hop across the kitchen before we trapped it. I completely lost my head and stood on our new storage ottoman from Target (with casters, of course) while my brave husband went after it.  I am normally only that creeped out by spiders, centipedes, and snakes, but this thing was as freaked out as we were, which made it that much worse.  If all the furniture had been on casters, we would have been able to end The Great Roach Hunt more quickly. Blech.  At least it wasn’t one of those infamous German cockroaches. Exponential blech.IMG_2282
  10. Couching: This last one may be a new one for some of you.  If you grew up as a suburbanite, perhaps you may or may not have participated in (or been the recipient of) a toilet-papering/rolling/TPing of someone’s house.  What you may not have done is “couch” someone’s house.  This involves the traditional toilet paper, accompanied by various and sundry other random things deposited in the victim’s yard, including: traffic cones, street signs, toilets, and couches.  (All of these things found their way into my yard at some point during my high school years.  You know who you are). 😉  Things like toilets and couches were allegedly scrounged from people’s yards who had set them out to be hauled away to the dump (translate: NASTY condition).  Things like traffic cones and street signs, well, you can figure those out.  Not legal, folks.  Don’t do it.  Now,  I would imagine that sneaking a couch into someone’s yard would be made much easier if you could simply roll a couch down someone’s driveway and run/drive off, rather than carefully placing it on the front porch.  Of course, maybe that would be taking some of the fun out of it, if, in fact, couching is a fun activity.  My dad played a good joke on the people who “couched” our yard one chilly night in late October that involved a toilet and a gigantic pumpkin, and let’s just say, there were no more couches or toilets in our yard for a long time afterwards.  Maybe this is why I love pumpkins so much.  At any rate, I’m not endorsing couching, but as an OCD person, I wanted a list of 10 reasons, and this came to mind as something humorous/bizarre/unique to add to the list when I was thinking about why you would want casters for moving furniture more quickly and easily.

Can you think of any more reasons why casters would simplify/improve your home/work/life (preferably a better reason than #10)?  Please share!