Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Mystic Winter 2016 Update

Nothing to really add her, other than a quick pic or two and a reach out to our millions of followers.  You can see the expanded master bedroom, a pitcher of sun tea, our priceless front maple, and the rear lawn.  Nothing too exciting!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bathroom Update

So....where to begin?  Sistered up the existing floor joists under the future bathroom to reinforce the slightly sagging floor.  Threw some LVL's in there and two rows of blocking and it really did the trick.  Prior to this, we demo'd the exterior walls and the ceiling underneath.  This revealed two surprises: 1) No exterior insulation.  Zilch.  Nada. 2) The second floor finish floor IS also the sub-floor.  The old wide pine (presumably original) is tongue & groove, but it has shrunk so much over the years that the T and G is no longer engaged resulting in a structurally weaker floor system.  This is why I beefed up the joists.  Anyway, it is now rough plumbed, inspected, rough wired, insulated, and 99% framed.  A big headache that is now essentially upon me is relocating two doors in our front bedroom to now open up into the bathroom (and new closet).  This will disturb our quality of life bigtime, as we're now living there and our guest bedroom is a giant walk-in closet --- in a bad way.  Dropped a secondary ceiling with lights and a ceiling fan below the old one and lost negligible ceiling height.  This conceals the new plumbing that now hangs below the existing floor joists.

Next steps:
Relocate two doors.
Demo three walls in adjacent bedroom.  
Drop in electrical.  
Insulate exterior wall in bedroom.
Install tub / frame side knee wall for tub.
Hang board & plaster in bathroom and front bedroom.
Prime paint, tile, finish carpentry, etc., etc., etc.

Better start my taxes!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Bathroom Progress

The Mrs. and I came up with a workable, second floor guest bathroom plan.  So....work began this past weekend.  Demo'd the ceiling underneath prior to running rough plumbing.  Am currently loving the exposed joists, but that look shouldn't last too long.  Hopefully, I'll re-hang a ceiling in the room below shortly.  Also, built a desk for the new third floor office, and with any luck will get both heat & electrical up there by the weekend.  TBD.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Slab / Shop

I'm afraid to look back at the date of when I last posted regarding a suggestion on finish ceiling height in my basement dig out.  Well, After 9 months of design/ planning/ construction, my basement is dug out & the slab is poured.  A brief history of events:  Our house was built in 1852 & had 5 foot ceilings & dirt floors when we bought it.  It had an old boiler (70's) that vented up a central (secondary) chimney.  This chimney was interfering with future 2nd floor new layout.  The boiler was quite inefficient, needed to be replaced & ungodly large.  I went with a direct vent boiler that freed up a lot of real estate in the middle of my basement, and allowed me to demo the chimney in question.  Demoing a chimney that had been venting an oil burning furnace and a coal burning furnace prior to that (for over 100 years) while living there with a young son and 'environmentally critical' wife was begging for trouble.  Relatively speaking it went OK.  The manual labor of hauling the chimney and digging out the basement was substantial, but the worst part of the ENTIRE renovation was the dust.  The dirt in the basement was unspeakably dry.  You would sneeze and dust would come up into the air and not re-settle for 3 hours.  Imagine two laborers digging this out for 9 hours a day?  It had to be a combination of our antique house having more cracks than a Rex Ryan press conference, and our upstairs having negative pressure.  I managed it as best I could and dealt with the fallout coming from the pillow next to me.  The concrete pour had to begin with 'lengthening' the existing foundation walls deeper with a detail my structural engineer and I came up with to not undermine the structural integrity of the foundations since they were not deep enough to withstand digging underneath them.  This resulted in a 20" wide x 10" high curb around the perimeter of the basement and the main central chimney.  I'm not too concerned about the loss of real estate this curb creates as I plan on building workbenches/ shelving on top of this and utilizing it as much as I can.  Design around it.

Net / net?  I have a ceiling height of 7'-9" to bottom of ceiling joists.  I pushed this hard and dug out an additional 12" than planned to obtain this.  It's as deep as I could go without putting NASA on retainer.  I pick up another 8" to 10" if I count the voids between the joists.  This is proving to be a perfect place for lighting, etc.

The heart of my new shop is my new Ridgid R4511, that I have broken down and relocated down to the basement piece by piece.  With no thanks to assembly instructions, I hope to have her spinning by weeks end.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday Face Lift

I had to take on a project that wasn't seven feet under ground. Something I could finish in a few hours, be proud of, get help from the family, & still have a quality day while doing so. I've been overwhelmed lately with the concept of crossing something off my list only to create five new 'to do' items. The basement, for example, was essentially a nine month process. Now that it's behind me, I have about 40 more things I want to do down there. Not very satisfying to say the least. Our next house will be new construction. I'm on record.

So, back to my little Sunday project: New FLOR area rug, & new DWR couch cover. Gives the family room a whole new vibe. Thanks to Aunt B. & Uncle P. for picking up the couch cover in Secaucus.

To do list:
-Assemble table saw
-Shop setup
-Heat attic
-Wire/ light attic
-Build built-in desk
-Move office to attic

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


I've been waiting/ planning/ working on this slab pour for 9 months. It's now history. God help the person that should ever demo it. You could build a high-rise on this thing. Now I just need to let it cure more and begin the cleanup. Next: I'll assemble the table saw, get the shop set up, and hopefully build some shelves for the living room. Attic also gets insulated this week, after which we'll add heat up there and hopefully start using that third floor more. Future photos will be much more inspiring than the prior hairy guys in basement. Promise.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Blog (Well, OK. More basement progress)

A couple of exciting things (for me anyway). First the basement excavation is DONE. The old footings which you can see in the photo were poured too high. So they had to be removed, which of course meant temporary columns again (you can see those too) to take out the new (too short) columns to make room to pour the new footings at a lower elevation (see happy fella in said photo). The last concrete sub didn't use forms for the old ones, but rather just used a hole in the ground (common practice). The bad news is, is that made them much larger than necessary (engineer called for 30"x30"x12"), and seeing as though they were poured with an insanely high compressive strength, well....let's just say the laborers were hating me that day. But again, all's well that ends well. All of those old footings, the remaining grade, everything is gone! So now all that's left to do is underslab drainage, crushed stone, vapor barrier and CONCRETE! With any luck from the construction gods, I'll get it in before New Year's. We'll see.

Oh yeah, another thing: Our attic was UNinsulated over 65% of it's footprint. I asked the insulation specialist (highly recommended btw), what score he would give us and he said a 45 out of 100. Ouch! Needless to say, his crew is coming after Christmas to boost our score. Can wait to see what this does for our oil bill.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tons of progress (literally)

Don't know where to start. Have been very busy in the basement which has not been fun. Removed between 18" & 24" of dirt from the basement floor (that's a lot). To make sure this did not undermine the granite foundations, the structural engineer and I came up with a detail that enabled me to dig down without fear of lateral movement in the basement walls. The result is a 24" curb around the perimeter of the basement and around the main chimney. Simple enough. Just lots of manual labor and a few concrete pours.

Now this is where is gets confusing: There were 2 chimneys: The main one, and a smaller (18" sq.) one that vented the old boiler. The latter has been consciously phased out with the new boiler being direct vented out the side wall. This chimney being demolished was quite a job. I wish the renovations gods could have landed on my lap and asked, "Are you sure you want to demo a 160 year old chimney that is unlined/ has been venting oil / coal burning furnaces for it's entire life; while you're living there with your wife & 2 year old?" It wasn't removed for only the venting reason, but more importantly for future 2nd floor layout reasons. (You see, we're long on 2nd floor bedrooms, and short on hallways). And since I knew it was a goner at some point, I wanted to do it now so I wouldn't have a scar in the future in my newly poured concrete basement floor.

So, the structural curb is in, the chimney is now on the back patio (yes, our neighbors hate me), and the majority of the excavation is done and off site. Should wrap up the dig out this week and god willing, pour the final slab next week. At which point, I WILL host a party in my basement (think man cave). I just checked earlier in the blog, and realized that this coming March will be the 1 year anniversary of my yet to be unpacked, table saw. Who knows, maybe I'll get her spinning by year's end.

Probably failed to mention in prior posts, but the new boiler & new oil tank (pics soon) are running as smooth as a whistle.

Friday, August 13, 2010

It's been a while....

Have been slowly chipping away at basement prep work prior to our little 'Big Dig' project. Boiler and oil tank were removed & recycled. New tankless hot water installed (and working 10X better than prior set up). Basement is ready for footings to be underpinned.

My better half came up with a floor plan for the 2nd floor that 'fixes' the entire house regarding it's layout issues. Problem is, it's a TON of work and removes 2 bearing walls. The new plan involves demo'ing the existing chimney that vented the old boiler. This will involve a mason, as this is tied into the main chimney at the 2nd floor. So, this involve demo'ing 2nd floor walls, which really disturbs quality of life. I want to do this prior to the basement work as the concrete contractor would otherwise have to pour a new footing under this chimney, and seeing as though it's about to be demo'd, we don't want this and think it's a waste. Also, we have an additional 2nd floor bath in the planning stage, so this will have to be accounted for in the underslab plumbing.
Two things which may complicate the dig out project: 1) If our waste main doesn't leave the house at a low enough elevation, we'll have to run the main above the new slab, and 2) If we encounter bedrock, or any rock for that matter when digging down.
All this being said, when (not if) the slab gets poured, we'll need to put a new boiler in for the Fall.
Lot's of work!

Friday, April 30, 2010


Things to do list for the weekend:
- Edge
- Mow lawn
- Paint backsplash
- Mount backsplash
- Plumb ice-maker
- Install 2nd floor bathroom blind
- Install front bedroom shades
- Install locking hardware on bathroom doors
- Install weatherstripping to firm up side door

Monday, April 26, 2010

Minor Kitchen Work + Spring Pics

A beautiful Spring day on Saturday helped get our green thumbs out. My talented wife single-handedly made a dramatic facade transformation just by adding two 2 topiaries.

The kitchen turned a corner this weekend. Stainless backsplash got installed and the counters are now complete. There was a small section of butcher block near the fridge that needed to be attached & there was a joint near the sink that did not line up. At first I thought it would be a quick & easy fix, but I didn't anticipate 2 things: 1) There is a reason oak is referred to as 'hard wood'. Too hard for self-tapping screws to self tap, and 2) Removing sheered off screws out of said hard oak is harder than the wood itself. Thanks to a newly acquired grinder (thank you craigslist!), the screws got cut off easy enough, but...long story short; what should have been a 1 hour job, turned into almost 3. The new Makita hand held power planer made light work of any alignment issues. Still need to repaint wooden backsplash & install with brass finish washers. Then hook up vent to exterior & install child locks (which are quickly moving up the priority list). That should wrap up kitchen for the time being & allow me to focus on the basement next month.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Basement + Spring List Update

I'm knee deep in the bowels of the basement dig-out design/ planning, and can't see straight. Not enough time in the day lately. I've pushed out the basement work until mid-May. Until then, I can still dream of our son's room with great inspiration from Flor's website:

Spring will definitely be waiting for us upon our next arrival. Nearly time to plant heirlooms & herbs! Summer is just around the corner...

Minor work on the short-list:
- Complete kitchen venting
- Repair front porch lattice work
- Child locks on kitchen cabinets
- Rear stair handrail
- Replace passive attic fan with solar powered attic fan (SPAF)
- Hang curtains in front bedroom

Monday, March 22, 2010

Basement Wall

In the planning stages of the basement digout. Met with a contractor this weekend. Spring is already in the air.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Kitchen Wrap Up

Kitchen runner by Flor and cabinet modifications near complete. Range installed, plumbed, wired & cooking meals. Minor electrical performed in kitchen adding a microwave outlet & deleting the old range outlet.

Next on 'the list' is to install
stainless backsplash, vent hood, and then a basement slab.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Guys dream too...

Dreaming of a concrete floor in the basement, my new Ridgid table saw, and a Kreg jointer.

Of course, a compressor, sliding compound mitre saw, router table, and edge bander wouldn't hurt either.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Counters, Cabinets + Richard Nixon

Progress! Phase 1 kitchen became a reality this weekend with about 3.5 days worth of work occurring in just over 1. The new wood counters got installed, the cabinets were modified to accept the new(ish) 36" range, and the hood was installed. The range still needs to be plumbed (Jim the plumber, if, by the grace of god you're reading this, please call me back), and an electric outlet or two added. Hopefully the existing 220 line for the old electric range will be running my own personal table saw someday as opposed to me needing to constantly 'borrow' my neighbors shop.

I had my 2 carpenters bring a laborer with them that basically worked 12 hours on Saturday emptying out the cottage & basement. Yes, we filled a 20 yard dumpster to the brim and I couldn't be more proud. Quite a cleansing experience. A real refuse enema.

Note how the cabinet over the hood had to be 'stretched' six inches and the cabinet to the right 'shrunk' by six inches. Stainless steel splash guard coming soon. I suppose the hood needs to be vented as well, huh? It's on the list.

I'm a sucker for red knobs.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Counters this weekend....

Butcher block counters to be installed this weekend. That's the easy part. Modifying the uppers over the range to become 6" wider, should be a challenge, then, of course, we have hood venting! Ouch. Not fun. Plumbing in the new kitchen sink needs a wider trap. Must make custom. Should be a long weekend. Backsplashes will be primed pine with brass finish washers for easy removal. Dumpster coming as well for basement & garage clean out.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

2nd Floor Plans

After months of deep reflection & part-time design on the 2nd floor, the best solution came to me while neck-deep in procrastination on another project. The new plan is, most-importantly, economical regarding what we'll be gaining with relatively little work (no bearing walls removal, etc.). Best of all, the wife thinks it's a home run!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Strike plate

Our side entrance door has to be deadbolted to remain closed due to not having a strike plate. After a 4+ month exhaustive search, I've decided to stop playing games + go custom.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Photos & Update

Removed the old refrigerator & the old water heater. Then brought to local transfer station for recycling. Many thanks to my buddy Brett for flying in from San Francisco to help with this endeavor (if only he knew ahead of time).

Latest design challenge: Creating more contrast in the TV room. The yellow sofa is overshadowing the room with it's amber glow (think McDonalds circa 1978). TBD

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Wooden Blinds

I'm hoping these blinds are going to be worth their weight in gold this summer by reducing the solar gain on this side of the house (which is hard to think about when it's so cold right now). My wife picked the blind colors, and I think they're perfect for the space.

On a separate note, something about this photo (couch color?) reminds me of a Crate & Barrel catalog.....in a bad way.

Touch up painting around new fridge, then butcher block kitchen counters next.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Burning fire, hot water & cold food

Burning Fire: After about a 12 step process (no not alcoholics anonymous), we had our first fire. It's probably been close to 15 years since I've built a fire from scratch, and it was very satisfying. The final piece of the puzzle was a 3 month search to find a fire screen that would fit our firebox opening just right. Thank you craigslist.org!

Hot Water:
My new local plumber friend Jim, tweeked the hot water in the master bath, by installing a new cartridge at the shower valve, an anti-scald valve at the boiler, and a couple of new ball valves to throttle down the hot as it comes off of the boiler. Long story short: long, hot showers without needing to hookup a water heater (all off of the boiler). Life is good.

Cold Food:
New (almost new) fridge. The fridge that came with the home would mysteriously open during the week spoiling all of the food for our return. This quickly became a priority. Worthy of a future blog entry, by the grace of God, I found a Sub Zero 650 on craigslist in mint condition. I spent last weekend doing finish carpentry, rough plumbing (ice), & electrical to get ready for it. It was installed Monday!

Next on the 'list' in chrono order: Hanging wooden blinds in the den and side entry. Touch up painting around new fridge. Plumb ice-maker. Recycle old fridge. Modify (move) existing kitchen cabinets to accept 36" LP range. Plumb range for LP. Touch up cabinets/ re-paint. Replace countertop & backsplash.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy Snow-White New Year

Let's see....Summer is just a memory. Just got back from from a long and wonderful weekend. On the house front, I installed 2 hall pendant fixtures, hung curtains in the master bedroom, wired and hooked up the stereo, and did a bit more caulking/ wind-proofing. The stereo being hooked up (it's been over 6 months since I've experienced real bass), made it feel like a true home. I found a box of old CD's in the attic, and reminisced in the old school beats. Did some sledding around the yard with the little guy, and basically enjoyed being snowed in so to speak. A fireside, pub dinner on New Year's Day at the DPI, certainly completed the warm & cozy weekend.

Plumbing (not there yet)
The heat is working great actually. I can't say I've mastered the hi-tech energy star thermostats, but we were toasty all weekend. I had a local plumber friend stop by and take an unbiased look at the boiler regarding the lack of hot water available at shower time. There is a domestic hot water loop in the boiler that supplies the hot hot. The hot & cold valves going out & in of that loop were adjusted completely wrong (thanks to me). He took a shot at them, and drastically improved the hot water situation. It's not there yet, but he should come by this week to install a new Honeywell thermostatic valve just downstream of the DHW loop. This will help with any initial scalding water (which is a problem). Next, he will pull the Moen 'Dialcet' shower valve & replace the guts of it. He thinks this might help as well. I'm not so sure as when I can't get hot shower water, I can't get hot lavatory water either. So...we'll see.

He says that with the DHW loop, I, theoretically, don't need a water heater as part of that system. I have a Seico tankless from a prior job, that could be added easily enough, but again, he says I 'probably' won't need it. My (and my wife's) issue is that I would like reliably hot water when I want it. Is this asking too much? I'm so close to buying a 100 gallon water heater at Home Depot and just tossing the thing in there. I could install it myself in an hour. The environmental issue of leaving the thing on & heating while we may be gone for extended periods of time, is what kills me. I'm not there yet. Perhaps if I'm not taking a steamy shower by February, I'll punt then. Cheers.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Late Fall Updates & Fireplace Design

It's been quite a while since my last post. I've been slowly chipping away at cold-weather sensitive projects like cracked window panes, caulking, etc. & making good progress. Installed a product called 'winter watchman' that turns an outlet on if the temperature drops below 40 degrees. I hooked it up to a light with a red bulb pointing to each neighbor's home on either side of us. Basically if the boiler fails or we run out of heating oil, this would give me a slightly larger window of opportunity to manage it and get it resolved. Sadly, we're not going down quite as much in the winter months for obvious reasons. As mentioned in another post, I had the opportunity to design something (a rare moment in this house where almost everything's original): the fireplace mantle. Restraint was tough as the original woodwork in the house is extremely simple, and I didn't want to overdesign it. My wife said it best, "You need to design it like it's been here for 150 years". The following fireplace pics are in chronological order.

Existing (but not original) wormwood cypress paneling.

Post-demo fireplace. (Nothing salvageable)

"Since all walls are open, we should re-wire, huh?"

Board hung

What a difference paint & cleaning make

Mantle design

Primed (not painted yet), and not installed, but you get the idea.