Archive for December, 2009

2009 Accomplishments & 2010 Goals

Wow, I can’t believe 2009 is almost over.  It was a very busy year for us.  We accomplished far more this year than we did last year.  If you remember our goals for this year were:

  • Install seamless gutters with Gutter Glove  Done
  • Dig in underground drains for the downspouts  Done
  • Paint and prime the entire house, this includes the ceilings because we have water stains in almost every room  Halfway there
  • Do some basic landscaping, define flower beds and start planting  Done
  • Make a master landscaping plan for the future, from my last calculations we have nearly 20 flower beds/planting areas around the property  I have some basic plans
  • Create a yard for our dog Sophie?, clear out brush and install temporary fencing, we have to wait for spring to see if this is even possible there or if the ground is too marshy  Done
  • Cut the second garage door back in  Done
  • Install two new garage doors and openers  Done
  • Figure out how to fix the draining issues in the garage  Not done and a big problem right now
  • Install a new propane tank  Change of plans
  • Remove the old oil tank  Done
  • Install a new top of the line furnace and condensing unit  We went geothermal instead but done
  • Change the ductwork in the house to be multi-zone  Not possible with a single heat pump
  • Install and program new thermostats  Done
  • Start building the walk-in gun safe  To do in early 2010
  • Interview architects we may want to work with  May be bypassing this step…

On the whole I think we did a good job!  We stuck to our plan for the most part but did decide to go with a geothermal heat pump instead of a traditional split system.  Either way the HVAC system was replaced.  Plus I think that is a big upgrade.  Compared to 2008 we didn’t deviate much from the plan.

Now onto next year.  Our goals for 2010 are:

  • Replace the water softener
  • Replace kitchen faucet
  • Seed lawn where the geothermal system was installed and the new dog yard
  • Landscaping, focus on front & fence flower beds
  • Replace garage window & re-drywall the wall
  • Install shelving in the garage
  • Build the walk-in gun safe
  • Paint the living room, dining room, and kitchen
  • Get the basement bathroom working and replace the shower surround
  • Fix the garage floor drainage issues
  • Refinish the dining room table & chairs, make new table leaves
  • Reupholster chairs
  • Determine final house design for the major renovations in 2011, draw house in CAD & sketchup
  • Save up for big 2011 remodel (new bathrooms here we come!)

What are your 2010 plans?


20 Months of Home Ownership: A Visual Timeline

With the year coming to a close I’ve been spending some time reflecting on what we’ve accomplished since we bought the house a year and eight months ago. It’s been a whirlwind of projects both planned and unplanned. Our initial goals went flying out the window as everything seemed to be breaking. Yes, that is the glory of owning an older home but it really didn’t help that the previous owners didn’t do hardly any maintenance for 10 years! Even though we’re only halfway though painting the interior our house is actually starting to work (dare I say) smoothly. Every single thing in our mechanical room has been replaced except the water softener (which has been broken since we bought the house & we’re planning to replace early next year). No more waking up to cold showers when the water heater broke or wearing four layers of clothing in middle of winter because it’s too expensive to keep the house warmer. Now I just kick back and relax knowing that I can keep the house at 68 degF without having an outrageous heating bill or taking a long shower won’t deplete the house of hot water.

There is only thing I love more than lists and that’s pictures so without further ado here is a visual timeline of everything we’ve done so far:

Peace, Love, & Joy

Wishing everyone a safe and happy holidays!

Now all we have to do is make it to all 5 Christmases! Our area was just hit by a big storm that snowed 4″, then rained, then freezing rained (and still is), and will eventually snow 3-5″ more. Lets hope our 4-wheel drive truck can get us everywhere. We have two Christmases today, two tomorrow, and one on Sunday. Oh and we’re hosting the one on Sunday!! Eek!

Snow Day!

With 16″ of snow in a 24 hour period and 30 mph winds Flannel Man & I stayed home today. Our area had a blizzard warning for today. A blizzard warning?! I didn’t know they even had those! Here’s what I woke up to:

Knowing a bad storm was coming I brought some work home with me but I was still able to enjoy some time outside with Sophie. She normally doesn’t like snow but seemed to have a great time in her new fenced yard hoping around like a bunny. And for the first time ever on this blog videos:



Because it was snowing so hard I was afraid to bring out my DSLR but I still got some fun action shots with our point and shoot:


Winter seems to have come overnight!

5 Chainsaws, 4 Guys, a Bobcat, & a Bucket Lift

While most people were out shopping on Black Friday we were cutting down trees. While we were clearing brush for our new fenced in dog yard (which I have yet to post about whoops!) it came to our attention that a large black walnut tree in our backyard was structurally unsound. Structurally unsound…can you tell I’m an engineer? Anyway, at some point the tree had cracked across the trunk and was leaning on the small oak tree next to it. The crack had been there for a long time because it was grown over but we were worried that it would still fall if it was loaded with snow and ice. If it fell it would definitely hit our house destroying the new roof and gutters along with our big living room windows. At first I was really upset that we’d lose this beautiful +50 year old tree but then I looked on the bright side that my yard would no longer be littered with large black walnuts every fall.

It’s location made it very difficult to cut down. It was 6 feet from the new fence we put up, putting weight on the small oak next to it, and leaning toward our house. There wasn’t any way to drop it in one piece unless we cut down the oak too and even that was tricky since it would probably hit some of the other trees in our yard and would fall on our septic pipe and my beloved forsythia bush. Plus I really wanted to have at least one tree there. I looked into getting another decent sized tree and it was $950 for a 10 year old tree. Considering the small oak is somewhere between 20-30 years old I really wanted to keep it and not deal with two stumps in my yard. So we decided to try to cut it down just the black walnut tree and being the DIYers that we are we didn’t want to hire someone.

We quickly recruited both of our fathers to help and since there isn’t much time before snow begins to fall we picked the day after Thanksgiving to cut it down. Though we probably could have just used tall ladders to cut the tree down piece by piece I really wanted everyone to be safe so I went on the hunt for a bucket lift. Enter in my father who thinks a long time family friend might still own one. A few calls later and bingo! Our family friend owns a farm only a few minutes from our property and though he had a trailer heavy duty enough to carry the bucket lift he didn’t have a truck big enough to pull both. He was able to coordinate one of his farm helpers who has a big enough truck to work the day after Thanksgiving so we could transport everything. On top of that he also had a pole chainsaw (or whatever they are called). And the best part he only wanted $100 and one future favor (Flannel Man is a machinist)!

Flannel Man also identified a cherry tree he wanted to cut down. It was a decent sized tree but only had two tiny branches. Plus it was very curvy and leaning way over the fence so when it fell it would be right on the fence.

Our backyard 10am Friday morning:

The bucket was only supposed to be extended on a level surface so we had to put it on the patio. Problem was the lift was only two wheel drive and couldn’t make it up even the slightest incline. So we had to get the bobcat out to pull it up onto the patio. I couldn’t help but cringe when the lift was on top of my peony bushes (under those leaves) spinning it’s wheels!

But we eventually got it up on the patio. It was soooo close to the house!

Sophie was jealous supervising.

Flannel Man and my Dad were up in the bucket. One would cut while the other one caught/directed the piece’s fall.

On a few of the bigger branches we used the bobcat to help direct their fall.

I was going for an artsy sawdust sunburst here:

After a few hours they were down to the trunk.


Afterward I went up into the lift with my Dad for some pictures of our newly finished fence. I haven’t blogged about it yet because I wanted to wait until it was completely finished. We started clearing the area in July and we put up the last picket in November. It was very long process. Keep this in mind as you scroll down…

We cut the trunk into 8′ long sections and plan to have it cut into lumber along with some of the other trees we cut down. Papa Flannel & Brother Flannel took everything else to burn in their wood furnace. So we’re using as much of it as we can!

On to the cherry tree…

I went inside to put a load of laundry when suddenly I heard the tree fall along with a loud crash. I ran outside only to find this:

Another casualty, the ladder was leaning up against the fence and was pinned under the tree.

Everyone stood around in shock for a few minutes. Originally we were going to use the bucket lift on this tree too but seeing how it got stuck on the slightest incline there was no way it would make it up and down the step slope to get to this tree. So Papa Flannel pulled the tree with the bobcat in our front yard and my Dad notched and cut down the tree. Everyone did everything right but the tree didn’t fall where expected.

As we had expected the tree was dying. Parts of the trunk we were able to kick in half. It was hollow in major sections and was littered with woodpecker holes.

Papa Flannel dragging out the pieces with his bobcat. Notice the slippery gray lubricant from the geothermal drilling.

After spending almost every weekend for 5 months working on clearing and building the fenced in yard we couldn’t just leave it broken for long. So Saturday Flannel Man collected all the materials needed to repair the fence and on Sunday my Dad came to help Flannel Man repair the fence. They worked all day but finished the repair.

So what do you think? Have you ever had to remove a tree close to your house for preventative maintenance?



This is the story of two twenty something newlyweds who are learning to adjust to life in their first house, a 1973 fixer-upper.
DIY Savings