Archive for the 'basement' Category

Basement Task Lighting

The remodel trudges on and we’re ever so slowing getting the electrical wrapped up on our end. Cutting holes, pulling wire, stapling, adding junction boxes, wiring up lights, etc. Then when the electrician gets done with his test hopefully we’ll see his face again so he can help us hook everything up and look over our work. Only then can we get the underfloor electrical inspected and put the floor back down. If the electrician doesn’t start showing up after his test I might have to take extreme measures like kidnap his dogs until he does. There are only so many excuses a person can take before they snap!

Anywho since Flannel Man and I work opposite shifts we do most of the small tasks individually at night after work (his “night” starts at 2 am). At night it’s just me and the dog. She needs to be in the same room as me at night to see what I’m doing…you know to supervise for consistency. The other night after cutting in some ceiling boxes I decided to take a self portrait with the dog because there is always a lack of pictures from these individual work nights. Most of them turned out blurry or dark but for the first one worked out. It just makes me laugh.

Let’s take a closer look at what’s all going on in this photo shall we?


What a great little summary of our lives right now! It’s not all doom and gloom like my last post might have sounded. We’re still having fun just more antsy to get things done.

With all of the basement recessed lights in we still had some task lighting to figure out before we could get the basement electrical inspected and close up the floor. The alternating recessed lights look great and give a nice even amount of light. We’re very happy with the look and the amount of light they put out. It’s like night and day with the new recessed lights vs. the two old flushmounts that were lighting this space before. But this is going to be a multifunctional space so task lighting will be beneficial and add another dimension to the lighting scheme in the room.


The first area that is going to have task lighting is the desk that will be built-in to the nook under one of the windows. On our current desk I use a desk lamp and it works well but I also have a much larger L-shaped desk right now. With the limited surface area that can fit in this nook I wanted to go with some overhead pendant lights that don’t take up any desk space. The pendants will be right in front of a big window so I don’t want them to be too big or take up much visual space. We also want a bit of an industrial feel to this room so I’m leaning toward a clear glass shade or a more industrial wire cage shade.

Schoolhouse Electric, Lowell

Hudson Valley 8001

For now we just cut in the electrical boxes and wired up a nearby light switch. The electrician wanted take a short cut and consolidate light switches putting it on the other side of the room near the sink or the entrance. But I didn’t want to have to walk across the room everytime I used the office lights. That is beauty of assisting the electrician you can put things wherever you want them as long as you can make it work. We’ve had plenty of time to do minor changes like that with him taking the month off.


Another area we want task lighting is what we’re dubbing “the reading area.” Very creative right? This space will have either a daybed or banquette similar to a window seat sans the actual window. It’s a nice spot to curl up and read a good book because it gets a lot of natural light in the afternoon from the patio door and has a view of the back yard. But it’s not deep enough to do much else without impeding on the traffic flow. There I wanted to have two armed sconces on either side of the daybed that switch on individually by hand. This part of the floor above was not tore up and with the manual switching thankfully it wasn’t needed. There is an outlet on that wall we’ll be able to pull the power from and with a little drywall patching we can easily add those later. I’d love to get some sconces like these in the space:

Hudson Valley 4721


Finally, there is the Awkward (with a capital A) sink area. As I explained previously this area is going to become our utility sink…well actually that is how we use it now and we’re going to keep it that way. It had its own ugly flushmount light and switch but the light was a few feet behind the sink. So when you turned it on and stood in front of the sink it created a big shadow on the whole space. After tearing up the floor above we saw that the beam took up almost the entire soffit above the sink which explains the strange light location. The beam is very big and covers almost the entire countertop so the best place to put task lighting would be recessed into the soffit. The lights could stick out below the drywall but anything more than an inch or two and I would hit my head on it when I lean over the sink. It’s a tight area!

Ever since we bought the house I had had a plan in my head for this area. Line the soffit with either recessed or non-recessed puck lights tied together on one switch! Imagine the nice triangular rays of light hitting the back wall which will someday be covered in a pretty mosaic tile…sigh. It would be cheap and easy. But nothing is ever as cheap or easy as you’d hoped. The distance between the bottom of the beam and the drywall was just shy of 3 inches. As I explained my idea to our electrician and our local the electrical supply company they both thought it would be easy to find a recessed light that would work in the space. Upon further investigation it wasn’t. Everything that is that shallow is made for kitchen cabinets and is only rated to be mounted on or in cabinetry. I couldn’t find a single puck light rated for drywall. Which seems crazy considering I was even looking at fixtures that were flushmount to the underside of the drywall out in the open! But after talking to a few lighting companies they said they get too hot for drywall applications. I could only find one fixture that was UL listed for drywall and it was a very expensive mini LED recessed light. So we went back to considering all kinds of ugly and unconventional options like a track light on the front of the soffit, recessed lights a few feet behind the sink with gimbal trims, and battery operated lights. We even considered removing the bottom part of the soffit and replacing it with stained wood but we thought that would look strange with the rest of the soffit continuing on across the hall in all drywall. With the batrooms now over this area putting a light back where the old one was wasn’t even an option anymore because there is now a duct there. After agonizing over the decision for weeks we bit the bullet and just bought the LED lights. We knew we’d never again have the floor above open for access and without that we wouldn’t be able to wire anything to the soffit space where we really wanted the lights to be.

It took weeks for them to arrive because they are a new product that is custom made for now. At least that extended lead time coincided with our missing electrician. When they came I was initially a bit bummed. They didn’t look like they were worth the outrageous price we paid for them. You could see each of the three LEDs inside and the lens looked small compared to the trim size. But I gave them the benefit of the doubt and we installed them anyway. Installation was didn’t exactly go as planned…

    Late one Sunday night I marked out the evenly spaced lights and put a nail in the center of each one and thought:

    How luck am I that I didn’t hit any of the 2×4’s above! Maybe this is going to work out after all.

    Then I put in another nail on each edge of the 2” holes we had to cut and hit not one but two 2×4’s.

    Bummer. Now what?

    So I moved each light in an inch.

    If they are all evenly spaced the distance from the side walls doesn’t matter.

    Hit two more 2×4’s.

    Duh! OK I’ll just space them out instead.

    Hit a 2×4 on the first hole.

    For the love of…

    So I go back to the original layout and Flannel Man offers to help by somehow fitting his hand under the beam from the floor above. A lot of yelling and confusion ensues.

    “Which one can’t move?”

    “This one?” *knock, knock*

    “And this one can move left?” *knock, knock*


    “My left or your left?”

    “Mine. And the far one can move over the width of my middle finger.”

    What the? “Can you convert that to inches?”…

A few scratch pieces of paper full of quick calculations later and I realize there is no combination where the lights can be evenly spaced. So we take the layout that is the closest to even and learn to deal. No one but me will notice right?

The lights are low voltage so we had to find a space for a transformer that was accessible too. Originally, we thought we could put it in the wall above the light switch or even all the way down into the back of the cabinet below but the easiest location ended up being in the ceiling of the reloading room. So Flannel Man ran 14-2 wires for each light individually across the basement bathroom ceiling and into the unfinished reloading room. Then another 14-2 back to the switch in the wall. This turned out to be much easier than daisy chaining with the tight clearances. We had to add a junction box to gang everything together first because the transformer barely has enough room for one wire much less four. (Note: You have to read the specifications for your transformer carefully though to make sure you can have that much wire between the transformer and the lights. If it’s too far away you’ll lose too much to line loses and the lights will be dim.)


When everything was up and running Flannel Man switched the lights on for the first time and I’m pretty sure I heard a chorus of angels. It was heavenly. Perfect! Exactly what I had envisioned! The lights look so much better lit than they did when I first took them out of the package. I couldn’t be more happy with them.

Look at all of that light! The soffit went from being an eye sore to useful. This is no longer the dark little corner of the basement no one wanted to use.

Note the old light location on the left.

Getting new wiring to this switch was a real pain because this wall lines up with another wall below. But somehow Flannel Man managed to fish a new wire down there using the existing wire.

The new lights almost transformed the space. And the only reason I say “almost” is because the extreme mess and ugly orange countertop below.

Just keepin’ it real people.

Seriously though aren’t those beams of light on the back wall awesome?! Imagine this area being a concrete countertop with a big single basin stainless steel sink, a tall arched pull down faucet, a glass mosaic backsplash that runs up the whole wall, and new distressed white cabinets below. Won’t that look great someday?!



P.S. For anyone else looking at the Juno mini LED lights these lights we went with the 2 1/4″ MD1Ls in the 3000K temperature, flood optic, and white finish. I wasn’t kidding when I said these things are custom made! We considered the gimbals but they stuck down from the ceiling slightly and cost more. Plus we didn’t think we’d ever really adjust them. The 35 degree angle of the flood gave us just the right amount of light on the back wall so a gimbal wasn’t needed. You can find a lot of great detailed lighting calculation info here. For the transformer we got the 60W white one but later found out we could have went with a slightly smaller size for only four lights. There was almost no price difference between the transformer sizes so we didn’t bother to return it.


More Basement Lights & Even Less Floor

With a layout figured out I had to quick research recessed lighting brands, pick a housing, and find a place that had it in stock and for the best price. Menard’s lighting department stinks. Home Depot had a lot more recessed lighting options. But after a little searching online I found a local electrical supply shop that blew Home Depot’s prices out of the water. Housing, trim, and switches were all cheaper and they had almost everything we wanted in stock. The stuff they did have to order was shipped in two days later and they had great customer service unlike my experiences at Home Depot. Whew it makes me tired all over again just writing it out! We settled on some basic Halo 6” cans. The H7ICAT (new construction) for all of the spaces we could access with the floor up and the H7RICAT for the few spaces we wanted a light but didn’t have access from above.

Originally, I wanted smaller cans because I’ve read the 6” cans are not as in style as they used to be. But looking at the size of the space and how many more cans we would need with the 5” or even 4” cans plus the added cost of the housing and trim didn’t make sense to us. 6” cans were in stock, filled up the big space nicely, and made finding a trim easier.


When it came to installing the lights this handy video was much more helpful than the short directions that were a bit lacking for us novices:


In order to install the lights from above we had to cut off the pieces that a supposed to fit on the bottom of the floor joists or as they call it the “automatic leveling flange.”


We cut all of the holes we could from above so we knew we wouldn’t hit a floor joist or other obstruction. The adjustable hole cutter that failed at cutting ductwork worked good on the drywall.


The recessed lights were quick and easy to install. Here you can see how many more lights we’ll have the existing two we have now.


In the hallway we had to cut the two lights from below because the floor above is not torn up. We used the exposed ceiling in the reloading room at the end of the hall to help determine where the floor joists were but it was still a bit of a guess because above that beam the floor joists switch from 12″ on center to 16″…fun!


We weren’t so lucky with our other remodel style light near the entry door. Here is where we found out the floor joists in this area are neither 12″ or 16″ on center. A random width was used so that the floor joists lined up with some basement walls and the end of beams. It took a few tries but we finally got it right.


So everything was installed it should be pretty easy to finish everything up right? No. Not when your electrician waltzes in and says in addition to all of the subfloor you have removed you need to tear up half of your living room floor too. So the tool storage space also known as the floor behind the couch had a be cleared.


Under the carpet and carpet pad we found a note from the previous owners. Ten years ago they had the all white carpet installed that now needs to be replaced.


When Sophie awoke from her slumber she was surprised to find out that the living room had no floor. “Seriously?! WTH are you doing to my house?”


“OK I’ll forgive you this time only because you made me a huge dog bed and put it in a sunny spot.”


With the guidance from our electrician we’re running all of the wire. Existing conditions meant we had to add a giant junction box to our bedroom. The nice thing about installing it ourselves is that we are able to hide it behind a future nightstand.

The Remodel Expands…Again

As you know we’re in the middle of our master bedroom, master bathroom, and main bathroom remodel and to re-route the plumbing and ductwork we decided to take up the floor. While we were tearing up the floor I half-jokingly suggested that we should redo the basement lighting while we were at it. If I remember right Flannel Man’s exact reaction was, “Woman why do you have to make everything so difficult?!” But the longer he thought about it the more work it would be to install the basement lighting later rather than now. We would need to tear out most of the ceiling to route wiring later. So the remodel has officially expanded…again.


Backstory: The remodel started out as two bathroom remodels but because we wanted to steal space from the master bedroom it expanded to include the bedroom too. When I worked out a master bathroom layout and we saw how tiny the master bedroom was going to be we decided to move the wall between the living room and master bedroom which is where the fireplace is. So we had to pick between boxing in the fireplace and loosing the space or removing both fireplace and chimney. We picked the more labor intensive option where we gained space. Then we decided against installing temporary master bedroom carpet that we would just tear out later to install hardwood floors. But the only good location to stop the hardwood floors was at the entry. Which now leads us to installing hardwood floors in all three bedrooms and the hallway…so half of our house.


The finished half of our basement is a huge 620sf rec room with no real purpose besides storage right now. It is a strange shape with a fireplace nook that cuts the space in half, a not so useful wide hallway, a low beam encased in a soffit, a shallow nook under the window, a kitchen countertop with a sink, and a stove outlet coming out of the floor nearby. The basement level:

We were told the original owners had a daughter who was mentally disabled so they built the basement to be a mini suite for her to live in. She had her own bathroom, kitchenette, and seating area near the fireplace. The space is completely above ground with two big windows and has a door to the back patio so it would have been a great “apartment.” The original owners lived here for 25 years before they sold the house and moved to Arizona. Unfortunately, they couldn’t convince their daughter to come along and she later committed suicide. : (

The second owners lived here for 10 years and they used the space for mostly storage. When we toured the house the room was packed to the gills with stuff.


We didn’t realize how big the room really was until our final walk through.

Gotta love that retro carpet.

Shallow nook around the window.

Kitchenette with soffit above and stove outlet on the floor.

The hallway for example was much wider than it had looked previously!


Someday we hope to turn it into a multi-functional space we’ll use on a regular basis. I’m a big planner (I know what a surprise right?) so I had started planning out the room’s layout when we bought the house three years ago.

We’re going to have a TV watching area in the center of the room.

A built in desk in the nook under the window with an island on casters right behind it for additional workspace while maintaining flexibility. One side of the island will have an overhang for seating.

The current sink and countertop will be redone and used as a utility sink because we don’t have one anywhere else in the house. The extra wide hallway to the bathroom and unfinished side of the basement will have floor to ceiling built-in storage hidden by sliding doors on either side of the soffit. With an infrared sensor we can hide the TV equipment and DVDs in this storage area.

The mini room where the massive fireplace used to be will be an exercise/future kids space with big sliding barn doors. For now we hope to use it as an exercise room but if we ever have kids we could use this configuration where we use a bookcase down the center for a divider to create a small play area.

The left over area between the patio door and main door will have a glass display case and a deep bench or daybed for reading. If we go with a deep bench we might try to fit a small table with chair in front of it or just design it to work with the height of our card table. A daybed on the other hand could work for a guest bed since we don’t plan to have at guest bedroom in the future.


So I had to come up with a lighting plan for the space and fast! Originally, there were only two ugly semi-flush light fixtures for the whole space. They did not put out nearly enough light so at night the space felt like a dungeon.


We wanted even diffused light that was adjustable depending on what we used the space for. Some task lighting was a must too. The basement has lower ceilings than the main floor so I wanted recessed lighting because it would make the space feel taller. We’re going to put all of the recessed lights on dimmers so we can adjust them for whatever we are using the space for. After talking to my lighting department at work I came up with this layout:

The space will go from 2 fixtures to 12 + task lighting! I put the recessed lights on an 8’ spacing because they are about 8’ off the floor. As a general rule that seems to work pretty well except that it’s a long skinny space and I didn’t want a single row of lights going down the room. How boring would that be? It would make this space look like a commercial corridor. So I took the width of the room, divided it in three, and put a zig-zag pattern of lights going down the room.

This uses less lights than a square grid (two lights per floor joist which run from the top to bottom of this picture) and adds interest.

Once I had that all drawn up I had to figure out which floor joist to start in and if I wanted more lights on the top or bottom line of lights. That was all decided on by where I could squeeze lights in under our master bathroom. That area is congested with plumbing and ductwork so finding a place to lights after the fact was a real treat. I found a way to make it work though by limiting the number of lights we had under that area and using task lights for the desk and sink. In the tightest spot we will need to use a smaller remodel housing to fit in the same floor joist cavity as the toilet waste line.


The exercise/storage room/possible play area will have it’s own light switch.

The desk will have two mini pendants hanging in front of the window for extra light.

The sink area will have four small recessed lights in the soffit above it. Currently, the space has it’s own flush mount light and switch but the light is behind where you stand so it only casts a lot of shadows on the sink. Not a very good design but with the floor tore up above we can see the beam takes up most of the soffit so there isn’t going to be much room to work with there.

The reading area will have two adjustable wall sconces on arms flanking the daybed/bench.


So what do you think? Do you like the new plan? Have your remodeling projects expanded again and again like ours?

Saving Money on Our Heating Bills

It’s that time of year again where the temperatures are dropping and everyone is preparing for winter. Around this time two years ago we were rushing to get our house ready for our first winter in it. Having a large older home and living in a cold climate we knew the heating bills were going to be high. Before we bought our house we had asked the previous owner for utility bills but she just made up a bunch of excuses on why she couldn’t provide us with any. Instead I called the company that she was using for fuel oil and just about feel out of my chair when I heard how much she had spent the previous winter. In a period of eight months she had spent nearly $6,000 on fuel oil! She went through the whole 225 gallon tank nearly every month and had two fill ups in December and January.

Now most people would have not bought the house after seeing those kind of bills but we knew there were a lot of things we could do to reduce how much energy the house used. Plus we were completely in love with the location, land, and potential the house had. So we bought it anyway and spent the fall doing everything we could to reduce our heating bills that winter. We did 4 simple things that cut our fuel oil usage in half. Here they are:


1.) We re-insulated the attic. During our inspection we found out that there was only 5” of blown-in insulation in the attic and most of that had been tunneled through by mice living up there. The insulation looked like swiss cheese. According to my handy dandy ASHRAE Fundamentals Book that equates to an insulating value of R-11 (probably less because of the holes but we’ll ignore those) which is nowhere near the R-38 recommended for our area by ASHRAE 90.1. Because our house is a ranch style the attic insulation is even more important because we have a huge attic at 2140sf!
We could have just blown in more insulation over the top but that would have meant we would need to put up vent guards between every truss to keep the soffits clear. Additionally we don’t like how blow-in settles over time and needs to have more added to it to maintain the R-value. But the nail in the coffin was that we were planning to do a lot of renovating that would involve tearing into the ceiling. The thought of being able to roll up the insulation and move it temporarily was much more appealing than constantly being rained on with insulation. So we went with two layers of R-19 unfaced batt on top of our existing blown-in.

Even though our attic covers a large area it is very short so I voted Flannel Man be the one in the attic while I squeezed the bundles of insulation up through the attic access. The insulation expands to be twice the size of the packages so we wanted to open them in the attic even if it meant a lot of squeezing them go get them through the access hole.

Flannel Man started by clearing out all of the debris in the attic. Workers from the original construction had left everything from pop cans to material scraps. He also found a lot of mice skeletons and stashes of acorns so he cleaned out as many of those as he could. It seemed like the mice were no longer a problem because everything we found was very old but just in case he scattered some large chunk mouse poison on top of the existing insulation in the areas that were the worst. Next he started rolling out the batt in between the trusses making sure to keep plenty of air space along the soffit vents. The second layer he put perpendicular to the first to help cover any gaps.

We went from a measly R-11 to an R-49! And because we did it ourselves it only cost $1500.

And just for fun this is where I found Sophie after pushing insulation up the access hole.


2.) We put plastic on every window. We have 16 large, single pane windows in our house and most of them are 6’x4’ so there is a lot of glass! We love the view out of them and understand why the original owners had the house built with so many windows but they are a huge waste of energy. At least they have storm windows though even those are ill fitting. So we have vowed to religiously put up the dreaded plastic on every old window until we have them all replaced.

Because our windows are so big we have to buy the extra large sheets of plastic that are meant for 5 windows but they only cover two of our windows. The price can add up but even buying 8 boxes only cost us __. Over the years we’ve gotten really good at putting on the plastic so it’s virtually invisible. It’s all about making sure there are minimal creases in the plastic where it sticks to the tape; with our size windows it’s a two person job. We also put clear packaging tape on all of the sides to help hold the loose ends in place. When you have the plastic on for a long period of time the ends tend to come loose especially the areas over a vent. We don’t care about the current 70’s trim because we’re going to replace it but we’ve had very little finish come off with all of this tape on it. And we’ve found that 3M is by far our favorite window plastic.


3.) We replaced the patio door that was rotten open! Yes that’s right the previous owner was living with a door that was permanently open. Not only did it let a ton of energy out but it let a lot of critters in! The whole basement was filled with every bug imaginable and of course there were mice living in the basement. But the mice didn’t stop there no a slim gap wasn’t enough for them they had to go and chew a huge hole in the corner of the door to allow for easier access!

Now why was this door permanently open? Because the house didn’t have gutters and all the rain from the large roof would fall onto the exposed basement. The wooden patio door was so rotten along the bottom that it wouldn’t budge. But instead of doing anything about it the previous owner just left if like that for 2-3 years. The first thing we did when we moved in was fill all of those holes with Great Stuff. Then in the fall we replaced the door for a more permanent solution.

I know this one doesn’t apply to everyone but it’s a good reminder to check the seals on all of your doors and windows because even a small leak can cost you a lot on your heating bill.


4.) We turned down the thermostat. The previous owner was unemployed and had some health conditions so she spent all day at home with the heat cranked way up. The first time we toured the house in November it was a sweaty 78 degrees in there! The thermostat was also non-programmable but we decided not to replace it since we knew we were going to be replacing the furnace in the next year. Instead we just kept the temperature down to as low as we could stand it and wore warm clothes. We also used an electric oil space heater for supplemental heat if we were spending a lot of time in just one room. We like that style because you can turn it on for an hour or two until the oil is heated up then turn it off and it will still be putting out heat. Electric heat isn’t the most cost effective way to heat but heating only one room vs the whole house is.


So here are the numbers:
$5740 what the previous owner spent on fuel oil in one winter
1910 gallons of fuel oil the previous owner used
$3.00 the cost of one gallon of fuel oil

$2200 what we spent on fuel oil the following winter
980 gallons of fuel oil we used
$2.25 the cost of one gallon of fuel oil

$1200 the cost of the attic insulation
$1500 the cost of the new patio door
$60 the cost of all that window plastic
$200 the estimated cost of the additional electricity used by the space heater

So when everything was said and done we spent $3540 less on fuel oil and used 934 gallons less than the previous owner. All of the improvements paid for themselves in just one winter and we still had $580 left over in savings. That’s one heck of a return on investment!

What are you doing to prepare your house for winter?

Yes, We Built A Walk-In Gun Safe

It’s been a very busy spring. Flannel Man (FM) has been hard at work getting up early everyday to work on building the walk-in gun safe with his dad. Since we converted our house from an oil burning furnace to a geothermal heat pump last fall we no longer have a big 225 gallon fuel oil tank taking up space in our basement.

FM had been eying that space up for a walk-in gun safe because he would only have to build two new walls. I know putting in a walk-in gun safe sounds crazy but we really need it. Because both FM and I shoot multiple types of competition both indoor and outdoor we need a lot of rifles. And since they are all custom they don’t fit well in the standard gun safe meant for hunting rifles. Plus, FM has a small collection of old military rifles & pistols. So to fit our collection and allow for future expansion we would need a very large custom gun safe that would cost as much as FM’s truck! Being the cheap savvy DIYers that we are we decided to build one instead.

As fare as resale value goes we aren’t too worried about it. We plan to be here for a very long time and when it comes time for we/our children to sell the house they could always advertise it as a very secure wine cellar…or a walk-in gun safe. I mean it is Wisconsin half of the men I know are jealous we have one!

We started out by buying +80 cinder blocks, rebar, cement mix, grout mix, and mesh ladder (to reinforce the grout joints). FM and Papa Flannel laid the first row of blocks then drilled holes in the basement floor to hold the rebar in the cavities of the block.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5 & 6

Before installing the door FM put a plaster-like bonding agent on the outside of the cinder blocks. The bonding agent seals everything up and is meant to be painted but we’re fine with the white color it came in.

Using some of our tax return from our geothermal system we ordered a vault door from a company out in California. We ordered a standard size and then upgraded a few features (interior release, left swing, digital lock, and improved heat resistance). The door is made of steel and has a poured ceramic in the door to withstand a 2300 degF fire for 1 hour. It has 14 steel bolts and weighs a total of 600 pounds! We needed four guys to move it into place but moving it was surprisingly fast.

We used lag bolts designed for concrete to fasten the door frame to the walls.

Everything was going good but the door seemed a little out of alignment with the frame and was sticking. But Papa Flannel had a great idea to stick some shims in-between the door frame and the door where it was sticking then close the door hard. Apparently it works well on regular doors but on this vault door it got stuck, very stuck…while FM was inside. With all of us pulling on the door and FM pushing weren’t able to get it open for a good 10 minutes! For a while there we all thought FM was a goner. But he’s out safe and sound now.

The wood door in the back right is our garage which makes the truck really easy to load and unload with our heavy equipment!

Next its onto the inside. Building shelves, painting the walls with Drylock, and dehumidifiying the space.

Our Summer To Do List

Between all of the matches and kayaking trips we have a lot to do on the house this summer. Besides maintenance and upkeep these are the major projects we want to get done:

  • Re-roof the shed
  • Put gutters on the house and fix the gutters on the shed
  • Put in a new, working patio door in the basement
  • Convert the shop area back into a garage by cutting back in the garage door
  • Re-insulate the attic
  • Paint entire house


Re-roof the shed

We’re getting right on this list by re-roofing the shed this weekend. We had bought extra shingles from the roofers who redid the roof on the house before we closed so we don’t have many other supplies to buy to finish the project. I just ordered a dumpster and we’re picking up the flat shovels used for tear off from Papa Flannel tomorrow. Flannel Man and I will be tearing off the old roof and laying down the new tar paper on Saturday and Papa Flannel will bring his roofing nail gun and help us put on the new roof on Sunday. Hopefully everything will go OK because FM and I only sort of know what we’re doing.


Put gutters on the house and fix the gutters on the shed

The house currently doesn’t have gutters and never has in the 35 years since it was built. This has caused the windows and doors on the exposed basement of the house to rot from the water constantly dripping on them. By not routing the water away from the house the foundation has begun to settle on one side along with the front walkway which now angles water towards the house. We want to add gutters to the house and run the downspouts underground so that we don’t have to worry about moving the arms every time we mow. We also want to add some downspouts to the gutters on the shed because right now there aren’t any. The water collects in the gutter, falls through the hole where the downspout should be, puddles in front of the garage door, and floods the garage. In the winter time the water freezes and prevents you from opening the garage doors.


Put in a new, working patio door in the basement

Because of the lack of gutters water from the roof runs off the roof and hits the house on the two story side. This has caused the wood on the windows and doors in the basement to begin to rot. The patio door is the worst. It is completely rotted out so that it no long can move. When we moved in we discovered that the door was actually open by 1/4″ and also has a 2″ round mouse hole in the corner. So for right now we plugged up all the holes and gaps with expanding spray foam to prevent bugs, mice, and air from coming in and out of the house. I can’t imagine what all those hose did to previous owners heating bill. We would like to replace this door so that we can use the patio sometime this summer.


Convert the shop area back into a garage by cutting back in the garage door

The previous owner converted one of the garage spaces into a carpenter shop and then used the garage doors in the shed to park in the winter. They even left garage door on the ceiling so it could be converted back easily. We want to convert it back into a garage so that we can both park in the house and not have to tromp across the front yard in the winter. We’ll have to cut the garage door back in, remove the wall between the two garage spots, and close up the ductwork that was used to heat the space.

[Note the garage door at the top of this picture.]


Re-insulate the attic

There was only minimal insulation put in the attic of the house when it was built and over time it has compacted down to only three inches of insulation. There is also evidence of mice living up there in the winter time that have dug pathways everywhere though the insulation. The lack of insulation is most likely the main reason the previous roof was completely shot after only 11 years. There was a lot of ice damming that occurred because of the heat leaving the roof. We want to look into both batting and spray in insulation.


Paint entire house

With most of the house having white walls and almost white carpet we’d like to add some color to the walls. We also need to paint all of the ceilings because there are water stains on almost every ceiling from the previous roof. It would be nice to cover up the horrible goldenrod color in the study and the dog blood in the dining room, hallway, and master bedroom. We actually picked up some paint samples last weekend and now have spots of paint all over the house. I think we’re going to be painting the master bedroom first before our new bed arrives.



Our Many Firsts

So much has happened in our first two weeks of home ownership that I wish I would have started this blog before we moved so I could keep track of everything. I’ve been writing posts as I go but since I haven’t had time to upload pictures and I believe every good post should have a picture I haven’t published them. So here are my catch up posts broken into the actual posts:


In the last 5 days we’ve had a lot of firsts.

We closed on our first home. After house searching since last July we were finally able to close on April 30th. We first put an offer in on this in November but it fell through. We came back in February with a slightly higher offer and after lots of negotiating we were finally under contract in March.


We had our first flood. Within hours of closing our basement was flooded with water. I had hired carpet cleaners to come the day of our closing and as they were filling up their water buckets from the spigot outside our basement was getting flooded. The seller hadn’t taken disconnected the outside water hose during the fall so the water wasn’t able to drain out, froze, and cracked the pipe. The water was just pouring down our basement wall when we turned the spigot back on. We called our realtor to see if there was anything we could do about it but like we suspected there wasn’t. He called around to a couple plumbers and got quotes from $130-150. Thankfully, when my family came over this Sunday my dad was able to replace it with $20 worth of parts. But when he moved the insulation he found parts from the first time the seller had burst the pipe. The replaced parts looked very new, only a few years old. I guess she didn’t learn her lesson the first time.


We found our first mouse. As Flannel Man was tearing the shelving out of the basement he found a dead mouse on the top shelf. We think the mouse had been living up there a while from all of the feces and stored acorns that were up there. The next day we found our second dead mouse on the floor of the shop.


We had our first infestation. The previous owner left us with a large pantry moth infestation in the kitchen. That was nice of her. When she removed her food in the pantry we were able to see piles of moth “pellets” (I’m not sure what else to call them). At first we thought they were from mice because each pellet was so large. No, apparently pantry larvae produce pellets the size of themselves. They were everywhere and were embedded in the shelf liner because they had been there so long. Lovely. That also explained the brown cocoons in the corners of the kitchen and the tiny moths flying everywhere. When we first saw the moths flying around the house we were like, “At least they’re just harmless moths.” Ha, ha, yeah. Then we diagnosed what had infested the pantry and now we’re like, “You damn moths!” as we run around killing them.


We had our first gag moment. After the seller’s niece came to pick up the food in the refrigerator we noticed that it was never cleaned. The seller said that the cleaning ladies she had hired took out the food, cleaned it, and put the food back. The only problem is we’ve come to the conclusion that she is a compulsive liar. I first notice a shelf in the fridge had a 1/2” of syrup on it and the paper from a family size hot dog package. Gross. I started cleaning the shelf with the minimal cleaning supplies we had brought over. I had to soak it overnight and decided to leave the rest of the cleaning for the next day. The next day my friend and I decided to tackle the fridge. We took all of the shelves and drawers out and found a horrible sight. Sticky syrupy stuff all down the sides and bottom of the refrigerator, pieces of vegetables that were months old, two different colors of mold, and worst of all…brace yourself…large balls of dog hair stuck everywhere! We attempted to clean it but we couldn’t stop gagging. The next day I started back on the refrigerator armed with gloves, a spray bottle of diluted bleach, a putty knife, and a strong stomach. I liberally bleached every inch of the fridge, ruined a shirt, and couldn’t get the stinging smell of bleach out of my nose. After finally having the fridge done I figured the freezer would be easier, I mean everything’s frozen solid how gross could it be? Boy was I wrong. The freezer had four different colors of frozen yet somehow sticky goo. Oh, and more long white dog hair. *gag* Once again the putty knife was priceless. After four days we had a refrigerator and freezer I felt OK about using.


We had our first pissed off moment. During our final walk through we discovered that the seller had taken the washer and dryer. What?! They had listed the washer and dryer in their MLS listing and we had put it in the contract…or did we? Our realtor frantically makes a bunch of calls and finds out that though he had written it in our first offer he forgot to write it in our final offer. Crap now we don’t have a washer or dryer. And the kicker was that the seller didn’t even want the 35 year-old washer and dryer so she just gave it away. So we figure we’ll have to use the local laundry mat for now. But wait it gets better…we later find out the local laundry mat that has been open for over 20 years just closed down last week. Great.


We had our first confused moment. When I was trying to set up our computers I couldn’t figure out where the phone line was to plug in our modem. I know the seller had had her computer and modem in the same room but where had she plugged it in? There was a funny looking outlet with four small holes. I took off the cover plate and started poking around in there trying to figure out what the heck plugged into such a strange outlet. I finally broke down and gave the previous owner a quick call. Quick because I didn’t want to tell her how I felt about the mess she had left us with. Anyways, it turns out that the four prong outlet is a phone line! We had to go to couple hardware stores but we found a converter for it.


We had our first annoyed moment. So now that we had food in the refrigerator I went to go cook dinner after a long day of moving, cleaning, and un-packing. I opened the oven and discovered that the cleaners hadn’t even touched the oven. The burn on food was everywhere. In some spots it touched the heating coil! What is with this lady? Did she not believe in cleaning? If she couldn’t clean it herself why didn’t she hire someone to clean it for her? She had the money. She had just bought a BMW convertible as a second car. Luckily, Flannel Man came in to save the day and spent all night cleaning the stove. Again the putty knife proved to be an essential cleaning tool along with two rolls of paper towel and an entire can of oven cleaner. The grates had to be soaked in oven cleaner overnight and took on a kind of funky oxidized metal color but at least they were clean. Flannel Man said it was worse than the refrigerator because the oven cleaner just made the many years worth of burn on food soft enough to move around. He still had to try to scrape it all out. I shudder to think of what that must have been like. Flannel Man wasn’t able to get everything out so the next day I turned on the self cleaner for three hours or horrible smells. That’s also when I discovered that the exhaust hood barely works and makes a rattling noise like something is rolling around in it. Oh, and when I turned it on more dog hair shot out of it! It clearly hadn’t been used in a while.


We had our first wtf moment. The house has two large fireplaces that in the 35 years since the house was built no on has ever used, not even the original owners who built the house. The second owners (who we bought the house from) decided that instead of using the fireplaces they should add a wood stove. Well, we didn’t want the wood stove because we knew we wouldn’t use it, it was going to be in the room we were going to use as the dining room, and it was going to add an extra $200 to our insurance. So when my dad was over today he helped us take it out so we could give it to a friend who wanted to put it in his hunting shack. When we moved it we found that there were many, many bird skeletons and feathers in the soot. We’re assuming they had come in through the vent and accidentally gotten burned. But by the shear number of birds that were in there we’re not ruling out that they may have been purposely put in there. Even if it was accidental don’t you think you would smell or hear the birds? I guess no one will ever know the truth.



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