Tag Archives: renovations

Renovations Continue

When we got our little house on the prairie we knew there would be a lot of work to make this house our home. The work is ongoing. I have discovered I have some unrealistic expectations about how much effort goes into interior painting. In addition to the paint job, I had a bunch of other work planned. Specifically each room in our house had only one plug and the kitchen was missing some essentials. One plug per room may have been enough back in 1960 when this house was built but it is totally inadequate today. Also every light fixture in our house was simply a plain white wall mount with a bare naked bulb. I’m not big on spending money on home decor but that bare bulb is not acceptable. I needed to put in a new double sink and a stove hood to make life better. Fumes from cooking were bothering my asthmatic lungs. I wanted some new handles on the cupboards. This was a want not a need. Call me OCD if you like but I want all the handles on my kitchen cupboards to match.

The stove hood is in and functional, complete with exterior exit for smoke. It is really nice to have. Yesterday I was making apple pie and juice spilled and started burning and the fan sucked it all outside instead of making me wheeze.

And then there was our new puppy and her need for a front fenced area. This took quite a bit of energy and money. She has also eaten up a lot of potential work hours with her need for attention. Who can do fix-it stuff when a darling puppy wants to play?

Another major cuss addition was this new double sink with a faucet with sprayer. We also installed a separate tap with drinking water that does not go through the water softener. This ate up a good two weeks of fix-it time. I also put in some water proof backsplash where there had been peeling paint I had temporarily covered with white shelf liner. Life is so much nicer with a proper kitchen sink you can get wet.

Another lifestyle irritant is there was no plug in the bathroom and I had to use an extension cord to blow my hair dry. That is problem fixed. The one light was the bare bulb look was too far from the bathroom mirror to be of any use. I now have a nice new fixture above the mirror with its own light switch and a proper GFC plug. The old bare bulb light has a new fixture. It still needs paint but we now have light.

When you start painting you also start noticing stuff that needs upgrading. I painted around every doorknob and I was face to face with old ugly. After considered options we upgraded to new doorknobs with the neat new push/push open and close. This was between want and need. We could have made do, but the doorknobs were not fully functional. Plus push pull doorknobs will be nice as we age. They are already really nice! And, of course the old curtains did not match the new paint and so new curtains and rods were in order. I would have classified that as want not need except that the new curtains are all themoregulating material to cut down on drafts, and heat moving in during summer or out during winter. Because it is my own place and I don’t care what anyone thinks of my taste I also got lace and bows and cute little white birds on the curtain rods.

In the midst of my repainting the interior, the last of the two new windows arrived. That actually worked out well because the men installed the windows and I finished and painted around them and saved some labor. Replacing those 1960 era single pane farm windows with properly sealed double pane windows has made a dramatic difference in drafts already. We can now open the windows and have drafts when we want them and close windows and get rid of drafts when we don’t want them. The cost of the windows will eventually be recouped in heating costs, if we live that long.

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I have concluded that interior painting takes about ten times longer than exterior painting and it generates many more jobs and a lot of extra expense. We are determined to not go into debt fixing up this old house. This summer we kind of blew our budget and so we were frugal through September and we need to live frugally through October to help balance our budget again. The other thing about painting the interior is that you can’t just walk away and leave it until tomorrow. Everything in your living space is in an uproar. When you pause to cook dinner you have to go find where you stowed every single item while the cupboards were drying. I spent more time doing that than actually painting. As my husband says, quoting his old mentor the meteorite scientist Ed Anders, about “when you are estimating how long it will take to do something, multiple by ten and then change units.” That goes for the money end too.

Credit where credit is due. I am the main fixer upper in our family but hubby dearest cheerfully took on any chore I asked him to. That included anything that required being taller, or stronger or jobs that need three or four hands. I also assigned him the traditional male stuff still required by our sexist society, like dealing with tradesmen and sales people in hardware stores. He was very handy for keeping clerks out of my way while I quickly filled my basket with what I needed. (hardware store clerks always go for the men first.) He was also the master of finding help if they happened to not be around when I did need them. Best of all, since he’s partially colour blind, he has been delighted with all my colour choices.

I can’t say I was raised to be a fixit type. I am self taught. When I take on a project I first decide what I want. Then I research all kinds of ways to do it. I use youtube a lot. I just love it when people put up a how-to video. There are some really great videos out there that explain all kinds of stuff like how to add a plug or change a light fixture. Pin interest, Google, blogs and social media are also a great resource. I have also had my work checked by an electrician in the family and plumber who is a friend. The last thing I want to do is cause a fire or a flood. Occasionally, there are a few clerks in the hardware stores who actually know what they are doing and they have been a huge help to me. I have gotten to know some of the good ones at my favourite stores and I always ask them how they would do it first. The good ones have introduced me to better products like shark bite plumbing parts. These work fabulously well and mean excellent seals without soldering. I would not have known about them if the clerk at Ace Hardware hadn’t told me. I often start thinking about what I want to do and spend much more time researching it than the time I actually spent doing it, once I have decided how. I have tried to leave grateful comments and add explanations on blogs whenever I find I have learned something useful the next person doing the job might need.

Once I know how and what I want, I start looking for the stuff I need to do it. I use Amazon a lot but not exclusively. Living in rural area, Amazon saves me trips into the city and have mostly things at comparable or lower prices. Home Hardware has a great website and I can order anything and have it delivered locally to the nearby store. They have beaten Amazon on price and quality many times and get a lot of my business. Ace hardware nearby with the really knowledgable people gets a lot of my business too. I have also used second hand stuff where I could. Second hand stores and garage sales are especially good for picking up tools. Certain things simply can’t be done by us and those are best left to a professional. Installing windows is one of those things. Finally I have been blessed by wonderfully skilled neighbours who are willing to share their knowledge and tools, like the tractor with auger we needed for the puppy’s new fence.

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One final note. I am a procrastinator by nature. I also have this constant voice in my head from my childhood when I got called lazy and useless a lot. The result is I can usually think of something better to do than fixing things. To keep myself motivated and organized, I spent a couple of hours making lists of the many jobs that need to be done. Each one is one simple thing that would take 1-2 hours to do. I also include maintenance stuff because even though you are busy with painting or plumbing jobs, you still need to keep up on those occasional jobs like vacuuming the truck, cleaning the travel trailer fridge, or washing its exterior.  I cut up the list into individuals papers to go into a job jar. Every morning I take one slip out of the job jar to do that day. If I don’t feel like doing what I picked, I put it back and pick another one. If I am feeling ambitious, I will do more than one. The process has been a way to organize myself, and it is very satisfying to take a slip and crumple it up and throw it out when the job is done.

My original plan was to paint the interior of the house this summer and put in new flooring. I was overly ambitious. We got one half of the interior painted and we have done many small things to make our house into our home. The other half of the house’s interior will have to wait until next year. The new flooring will go in after that, hopefully that will be next year as well. Finishing should be much cheaper because I already have most of the materials. I get discouraged when I think about how much we have left to do. I feel better when I think about all we have done. It really helps to looks at a “before” and after pictures.

 

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All The Windows Are Done!

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Yesterday was a banner day at our little house on the prairie. We got the last of the old windows ripped out and we now have all new ones. When we moved into the house it had all the old original windows from when the house was built circa 1960. We had to change one window right away.

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There was only one spot in the house where we could get a halfway decent cellphone signal. That was near the west window.  You can see why my daughter soon felt her allergies kick into overdrive. This old window on the west side was rotting and full of black mould. We hired a local fellow to come in, rip the old window out and tear out all the crud and rot and install a nice new window.

We wanted to do all the old windows but there was no way we could afford to do it all at once unless we were willing to go into debt. One issue was that the windows could not be replaced by any standard window because the house’s window space was 5 3/4″ not 6″ wide and of nonstandard lengths and widths. So each replacement window had to be custom made.Our provincial power utility has a mechanism whereby you can borrow from them and pay back on your power bill. The problem is they only allow triple pane super high efficency windows and they charge 8% interest which at today’s rates seemed very high. We debated the double pane versus triple pane question. We have lived with both types in our house in our past. Triple pane is the most energy efficient but it comes at a much higher cost than double pane with only a small gain in efficiency. To recover that extra gain in energy savings going from double to triple pane, we would have to live to be about 200 in this small house. Double pane is just as draft free and comfortable feeling when the north wind blows, which is what is really important. Plus there are inspections required before and after with the utility plan and it all just seemed like too much hassle. When we bought the house we promised ourselves we would not create debt fixing it. And so each month I put aside a bit of money into a “window fund” instead and that fund slowly grew.

That first summer we bought some old fashioned screen things that would expand to fit the space and we forced the windows in the bedrooms open and closed with a rubber hammer and many cuss words. The front was just beyond movement even with all of hubby dearest’s strength so we gave up. When I repainted the exterior, I simply sealed in the old window’s storm fronts with calking and painted over everything. We added that thin shrinkable film stuff on the inside to improve the very marginal protection those old sash style single pane windows offered. Since we were away in winter we didn’t have to suffer but we did have to pay the cost of heating the a house with leaky old windows.

By the following spring our window fund had grown enough money to purchase three more windows and have them installed. Fortunately none of these had any rot so we could wait without endangering our health. Three new windows went in and life was instantly much easier in our old house.

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We still had the two biggest windows left. One was in the front room and one was over the kitchen sink. Both windows were impossibly dirty and scratched up and just plain awful. And so we continued our window fund and I increased the monthly deposits after getting an estimate on what two double windows would cost. After much debate we decided to simply get a nice solid picture style window in the front living room space. It had to have a centre post though because of the structural needs of the house so it would be two larger windows in one frame with a post. With the door on one side and another window on the west wall, this north facing window was not required for circulation. Hubby dearest likes to have an open window with lots of natural light where he works. He already had air circulating past him from door to small window and installing a window that could open and close would reduce the light because the window would have to be smaller. The light aspect was more important to him. By going with the double windows that don’t open we saved almost 1/3 on the cost. I did insist on having a window that could opened in the kitchen and who cares about the cost of that!

Today, the last two windows went in! Oh joy, I have a nice kitchen window that opens over the sink. We have a big beautiful picture window in our living area behind Hubby Dearest’s desk.

We have two steps left. When we first moved into this old house I knew we would changing all our windows and repainting eventually but we needed window covering now. I went into the Sear’s clearance catalogue and mail ordered clearance mini blinds and pretty but light very cheap clearance valances for all the windows. After the new window went into our bedroom last year I replaced that mini blind and valance with a proper thermal, light darkening curtain set. This means in June when the sun rises at 4:00am, the room stays dark until I actually get up. I now had to choose proper new curtains for our new windows in the front room. I wanted them to be thermal room darkening as well. This should help compensate for the fact that our new windows are double pane not triple over night and during winter when we are not here. They are on order.

My last step is to convert the window fund to new doors fund. Our screen doors are hanging on by lots of calking and bolts and fussing, along with a few prayers. The old wood doors are almost as bad as those old fashioned windows for energy loss. In the meantime, they have been sanded and repainted while I sanded and painted the interior doors and they look quite good now.

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I can’t begin to say how pleased I am to have all the old single pane sash windows almost out of my life. I did keep the old glass frames to use in my garden as spring cold frames so they will still be around but I won’t have to swing a rubber hammer to get some fresh air. I couldn’t help but do a little happy dance while admiring the new look in front. Our puppy Misty was happy to join me and turn it into a cuddle/wrestle session. Life is good!

My kitchen cupboard renovation.

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Sometimes I need to go back to old pictures to see how much progress I’ve made because it gets depressing to think about how much work this little house has needed. When we first bought it I could see immediately it was all cosmetic stuff. Everything about the house was solid. What it needed was all “easy” stuff. Paint, new windows, a better kitchen sink. Working our way to getting all the easy stuff for the third summer is getting exasperating.

House

So I stand back and look at the house today and think, well we have come a long way! The exterior is all repainted. The wooden decks were all given a coating of waterproofing stuff. The vegetable garden was rescued. This summer we built a nice little fence outside to create a doggy space. The garden is coming along so nicely. Tending the flower beds is cheap and gives such immediate rewards. If I only look at the outside, the house feels entirely and comfortably mine.

This summer we began tackling the inside. The kitchen is in so many ways the heart of the home. I really wanted my own kitchen space made over the way I like and want it. And so that is where I began the inside.

I went through a whole lot of internal debate about whether or not to raise the counter and whether or not it might just be better to tear out these old cabinets and buy new ones. It certainly would have been easier! (I think.) In the end we simply upgraded the old ones. We did this for three reasons. One, it is much cheaper to repair and repaint old cupboards than to buy all new ones. Two, these old plywood cupboards are far sturdier than anything you buy on the market today short of custom designed solid oak cabinets made the old fashioned way. That would likely cost more than the whole house even if you could find a real old fashioned craftsman to drive to Alonsa to do it. My drawers even have dove tails on the ends! How often do you see those these days? If you have ever lived with pressboard cupboards that start falling apart by the time they are five years old, you know exactly how nice solid plywood can be. These cupboards are as old as I am and they are still working perfectly. Third, call me old fashioned but I really felt the handmade plywood cabinets were integral to the character of this little farmhouse. That went for the lovely old fashioned counter top. I simply don’t like the granite that is so popular these days. Ripping the old cupboards and countertop out and putting in new modern cupboards and counters just would not feel “right”. I was going to raise the countertop but then one of the older residents pointed out that lower cupboards are easier as you age and need a walker or to sit while doing dishes. Since we are hoping this home will be our last until we go into the ground, we need to think of things like that.

Sink

The single most irritating thing about the kitchen was one medium size sink. I like having two sinks. Call me crazy, but a kitchen isn’t right to me without two sinks. Since it is a small kitchen, it took some time to find the right double sink that fit but Home Hardware had it. Now I have a medium sink that is the same size as the one I had before and smaller sink on the side to dump things in when I do dishes and all those other times it is great to have two sinks instead of one.

We added a spray tap that pulls out (what a great new fangled gadget that is!) and a second small faucet for drinking water. We have the most delicious well water you can imagine but it is as hard as anything and so we have a water softener in our basement. But who wants to drink that stuff? For a while we were going outside and getting drinking water from the outside tap which does not go through the water softener. This was fine in summer although I did get some weird looks going out in the morning in my nightgown to get water for my morning coffee. Last fall I then installed a basement tap that allowed us to get drinking water without going outside. It also allows us to drain the system of water before we left for the winter. That was a huge improvement for morning water runs, especially for November when we had snow on the ground. Now we have the deluxe model with a separate tap right in the kitchen.

The other addition was a much needed stove hood. Our house is small and so if you burn something or fry something the fumes fill the entire house really quickly. We also have humidity issues so a way to quickly clear the air is very handy. The new hood (again compliments of Home Hardware) turned out to be a really big job because I had to wire it in. We soon found the charcoal filter was inadequate and we needed a vent to the outside. The precise vent was hard to fine but Amazon provided what I needed to install an exterior vent. Both jobs were successful but many cuss efforts. I also discovered that not everything in my lovely handmade plywoods cupboards was perfectly square so we added “trim” to the “must have” list.

Kitchen Prep

The kitchen in our small house also has few cupboard spaces and unfortunately two perfect good cupboards were inaccessible because one of the previous three owners painted those old fashioned sliders shut. Fortunately, the application of a little superior male intellect from hubby dearest and some more plywood and a trip to RONA for just the right hinges meant the old impossible doors could be replaced with new ones that actually open and close with a touch. We made new doors for that inaccessible set of cupboards over the stove and now I have two new lovely additional cupboards on top.

 

We decided to keep all the original hinges. They are sturdy and working just fine. Plus at an average cost of $5/hinge that was $180 we could use elsewhere. We did opt for all new matching handles. If you look at the picture where I am installing the sink, you can see how we had three different kinds of handles. I found these lovelies on sale very cheaply ($1.50 each) from Amazon. The ones I really wanted with lovely twinned ivy leaves and acorns were $70 each and they were just not lovely enough for that much money. What a difference a coat of paint and all new handles makes! (Thank you hubby dearest for cheerfully joining me in the effort of repainting and being ready to jump in anytime I needed another pair of hands or some brute strength.)

The four drawers turned out to be the biggest nuisance. Drawers have multiple surfaces which means many more sessions of doing a coat, then waiting then applying a coat, over and over again. The different handles meant that I also had to fill the original holes with wood putty and make new holes and then sand. That resulted in almost as many cusses as stove hood installation required.

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I have ordered new curtains in a pretty green and blue plaid to unify the teals and greens. We have a couple of men coming in maybe some time this week (depending on how much time ranching takes up first) to install the last two new windows we need, including the one in the kitchen. (I am hoping for more rain!) And I have to replace the yucky old yellowing electric outlets and face plates with fresh new white ones and then repaint the walls. The walls I am doing in “Alpine Air” the fanciful name for a near to white lightest possible teal.

Our original plan for this summer was repaint the entire interior of the house and install new flooring. I know kitchens are the biggest fussiest job there is but I am beginning to think just getting the kitchen done might be enough for this year. I don’t have an after picture yet because we aren’t at “after” yet. I still have lots of touch ups and clean ups. I can say, the cupboards are done!

“Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season.”