Showing posts with label living room. Show all posts
Showing posts with label living room. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


In other big project news, after eight years(!) in the house, we finally got our wood floors refinished. It took this long because I couldn't afford it for years, then once we could I knew we'd have to move out of the house to have it done. We also had a huge question mark about the sloping subfloor under the carpet.

We had no idea if fixing a creaky franken-floor would cost $500 or $5000. Just to recap, at one point our dining room was two rooms: a formal dining room (the side with the big window) and a kitchen nook that was 2/3 as deep as it currently is. The kitchen nook was bumped out to meet the front of the house and the wall between knocked down.

Plywood removed and subfloor revealed

They either ran out of money to finish out the oak flooring or got lazy? They put down plywood and slapped some carpet on top. The floor sloped and squeaked. When I moved in there was evidence of a previous roof leak (this wall is drywall when every other wall in the house is lathe and plaster and there was clearly damage to the ceiling), and the mouldings were all hiding in the garage.

Anyhoo, we finally bit the bullet and hired Union Floor Co. In preparation I started cutting the carpet away from the wall so it could be easily rolled up the morning that work started. In the course of doing this I discovered past water damage and dried, inactivated mold. Yay! We are assuming this was from the previous leaking roof because why would you replace the plywood when you've had a leak and you could just put carpet on top?

There were a couple of reasons that the floor squeaked. For starters, when they were nailing in the plywood THEY MISSED THE JOIST. So the plywood was sitting atop the joists in places. There was a particularly bad squeak that Greg would stand on and rock back and forth, just to drive me crazy, and I would think, "Oh that's why people get divorced after a year."

It turns out that that squeak was caused by a nail that had been shot into our metal air duct. Every time we stepped in that spot the nail would scratch across the duct. Company that built this floor, I WOULD REALLY LIKE TO REVIEW YOU ON ANGIE'S LIST.

Other issues included the weird hatch in our closet (read more about that here):

We had deep gouges in the bedroom where someone dragged something heavy across the floor.

Pet stains in the living room:

Extensive staining, water marks, and paint drips in the dining room:

They just generally looked terrible:

The dining room was leveled and patched with white oak flooring, as Siberian oak is no longer available.

We moved everything into the basement and a POD outside and I decided that we are never ever moving because we have too much stuff.

We moved out of the house for a week and into an Airbnb a block away. I was able to check in and be incredibly picky about how the floors were looking. The main worker kept saying things like, "The scratches aren't coming out in the bedroom but you lived with them before, so . . . " and then I'd feel like I was having a stroke.

I had told the owner that we didn't care how much it cost, we wanted all the scratches and stains removed, either by flipping the boards or installing new boards. It was in our contract. We didn't move out of our house to "live with" floors that weren't fixed because it was more effort. I called the owner and asked him to clarify with his employee that we wanted them as perfect as humanly possible.

And they did it!

We opted to seal the floors without a stain and they've assured me that the new white oak will patina to match the original Siberian oak. I'm skeptical, but my fingers are crossed. We did a satin finish, which is the least shiny option.

The nails in the original flooring are more pronounced

Other than that, the floors look SO GOOD.

Former closet hatch

Site of former floor gouges

We're very happy with the results. We're also totally exhausted from cleaning the house and moving back in. There was a fine layer of dust on every surface, requiring a wipedown of all the walls, counters, windows, etc.

I'm going to be camped out here for the next couple of weeks, until my feet stop hurting.

Thursday, February 4, 2016


Back in 2010 I had the fireplaces professionally cleaned specifically so I could light a fire for Thanksgiving. We have two fireplaces: one upstairs in the living room and one in the finished portion of the basement. They have separate smoke chambers that run side by side in the same chimney.

Our basement room started filling with smoke shortly after I lit a fire in the living room fireplace. Either the deformed damper that was permanently stuck in the open position downstairs was sucking in smoke from the upstairs chimney OR we had a crack or break in the brick/mortar between the two smoke chambers. Regardless, we never used our fireplaces again because I couldn't afford that kind of work at the time.

We decided to splurge and have gas inserts installed in the fireplaces, which would bypass the need to replace the dampers or deal with cracks between the two smoke chambers. I got three bids and ultimately decided to go with All Fuel. I felt like they really took everything into consideration, including how to deal with the curved front of the fireplace downstairs.

In order to comply with code, we had to install a hearth in the basement. We used Neilson Construction and I couldn't be more pleased with the job they did.

Just for fun, let's look again at what the fireplace looked like when I moved in.

The previous owner had installed a hearth, poorly and incorrectly, and it broke up when I accidentally hit it with a floor scraper. Hall and Oates were sort of blocking the cold air that came in because the damper was deformed and stuck in the open position.

I don't even know, guys.

The flooring was cut away to accommodate the new tile. You might be asking why we went with a hearth that's wider than the fireplace. When we installed the laminate flooring we couldn't get the flooring flush with the curved, irregular bricks of the fireplace, which left a 3/4" gap on the sides. It was too irregular to use something like quarter round (and that would've looked dumb, anyway), so I decided to have the guy tile around it. I wish I had a picture of the gap but I somehow missed that spot in the 1.4 billion photos I've taken of this house.

I also went looking on Houzz and it turns out an extra-large hearth isn't all that abnormal. Yay! This would've been a fun time to install some funky tile but I really just wanted this hearth to look like it had always been there. We found tile that exactly matched the 6" x 6" tile upstairs and went with that.

Original upstairs fireplace tile
New downstairs fireplace tile! It's just missing the transition strip.

Tom, the tile installer, hand cut all the tiles to fit around the clinker bricks. I swear I almost wept when I saw what a meticulous job he did. I want to retile our bathroom NOW before he retires. He seriously rocked this job.

All Fuel took the wood piece we had covering the firebox and had a metal fabricator create a perfect match. They had to grind away some of the brick edges to get everything to sit flush. They told me that this was one of the most challenging installs they'd ever completed.

And here we are now.


And after:

Next project: get a mantel built

Now, to the living room! Upstairs we were missing a tile.

The tile is all original to the house and it's unlikely we'd be able to find a match. We opted to pick out new tile that looked almost identical, then had them chip out the old. They left the granite corner pieces, which are still in fine condition.

Like it was always there

Now I just need to stain the hearth grout (they informed me that it was originally charcoal colored and has bleached out over the years) and we should be good to go.

I want to reiterate how great All Fuel was to work with. We had to wait about three weeks to get a bid from them and wait a little longer for install, because they are in such high demand. Their bid was $2000 less than Jacobs and they covered all the little things that make these projects better. They wear booties in your house so they don't gunk up your floors. They put down drop cloths. They are very communicative about what they're doing, when. They are unfailingly nice and very clean. Someone picks up the phone right away when you call. The install takes three days total and this was probably the least stressful project I've ever endured (for the record, insulation was the most stressful).

Likewise, Tom at Neilson Construction was fantastic. There were several times when I asked for things (extra cuts! more tile!) that created more work for him and he cheerfully gave me exactly what I wanted. He was so easy to work with.

If you need me, I plan to be camped out right here for the next few months.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Starting the year off right . . . with chemical fumes

A happy new year to you! Is anyone else glad to have December behind them? I feel like I just finished a marathon and now I want to climb into bed and watch movies while wearing sweatpants for the next six weeks . . . but I also sort of want to get out in the garden? It's a weird feeling that is making me antsy but also very sleepy and like I'd like to eat a lot of pasta. It's awfully confusing and it's making me get weird impulses around the house.

The doorbell that's original to the house has never worked. I bought a wireless one at Home Depot when I moved in and called it good. This summer our electrician was futzing with the original unit while he waited for me to pick up supplies and he actually got it working for about five minutes. You guys, it makes the most beautiful sound.

He lost the thread somehow because it stopped working and we chased him up into the attic so he could finish the electrical upgrade there. I plan on having him come out again sometime when I have money to burn so he can get it working. 

I was thinking about crawling into bed with my seed catalogs this weekend but then I decided I should try and strip the paint from the doorbell cover. No idea why! Then I ate a bunch of pasta. It was actually a pretty good night.

Under three layers of paint (white on top of red on top of tan) there were brass musical notes and a gunmetal case. I had to spend a good hour with steel wool and a bottle of Brasso to get it looking like this; it could use a few more hours of elbow grease still. Citristrip and plastic wrap removed the paint with almost no effort, which makes me wonder what else in the house might be worth stripping.

I should just strip Greg. He certainly smells better than Citristrip and he'd probably make me some pasta afterward. Priorities, I have them.

I hope you had a marvelous holiday season and that your new year smells better than mine.

Monday, November 19, 2012

I can't leave well enough alone

This is our entry way. It was fine but I've been itching to paint the doors black. I'd been resisting this because black doors are de rigueur right now and I try to avoid trends. But then I realized I was being a stupid hipster and it's okay to follow trends sometimes. It's just paint.

So I painted the doors here and in the kitchen and I freaking loved them.

But then I started looking at the paint job in here and how the previous owner didn't even cover the old orange paint in the area between the front door trim and the coat closet trim. I started to get itchy to repaint the walls. Thanksgiving won't be perfect if I don't repaint the entryway!

Greg was like, "Wait, what, you're painting again? I thought you were all done." and I was like, "La la la, MORE PAINT FUMES HOORAY!" I had pinned this image a while back onto my "awesome paint colors" board. It's 'Peaceful Night' by Behr.

Image from Design*Sponge

I went to Home Depot and grabbed a gallon because I was like, "Oh, it will be so awesome I'll want to use it everywhere!" Without testing it first. Do you see where this is going?

Uh, that's not the same color. I know, Internet browsers, photography filters, blah blah, I should have tested the color first. Because it's electric cobalt blue. Cobalt blue is having a moment, so our entry way is totally on-trend but it doesn't really fit with the color scheme of the rest of our house.

I ran to Ikea and bought the largest natural wood frame I could find and threw a Fatsia japonica leaf in it (think it will last until Thanksgiving?) and tried to break up the blue with some scavenged artwork. No dice, it's still crazy blue. So we're going to have to repaint it. I don't hate the color (as I'm sitting here I'm realizing it's very similar to LeAnn's garage, which looks amazing) but it stands out from the rest of our house. We employ a pretty consistent color value throughout our house and this is off the charts in comparison.

If you're in love with this color and want the almost-gallon I have, just let me know. It's all yours. And then I am not allowed back at the Home Depot for at least a month.