Monday, September 28, 2009

Off the Walls!

The past few weekends we've been all about stripping wallpaper in the upstairs bedrooms. Yes, we are doing it "green" -- using only a steamer with water, no chemicals. The steamer actually works like a charm. There are about 5-6 layers in each room, but they're all paper, so the steam is able to get through it very effectively once we score the paper. We'd be in much worse shape dealing with vinyl. It's satisfying seeing the stuff fall off the wall in soggy sheets.

This work has really tapped into my life-long penchant for archaeology. It's fun, and a bit eerie, to see the different layers reveal themselves. It's a window into the house's past. In the photo below, you can see how one of the old layers in the smallest bedroom featured boys floating around in boats. The little boy's room, circa 1950! It looks like the walls of both the bedrooms we've done so far were originally painted gold-yellow, then mossy green. Then decades of wallpapering began.

We should be done with this work in the next three weeks or so. Heretofore unbeknownst to me, wallpaper stripping holds a mysterious appeal to others of our generation. So a couple of friends have been/will be helping us get this work done. Special shout-out to Fran and Jeff.

The plaster is in pretty bad shape, cracked in many places and with patches missing, but I'm hopeful that our contractors can patch it effectively.

Dan's parents came over this weekend too and helped out a TON with the backyard. The most exciting part of this work was the rediscovery of a completely intact stone patio just off the back porch. Again, urban archaeology, cool. The stones are all in perfect condition - they just need a little washing down. (Photos forthcoming!) They also tore out some old weeds and tree saplings from a small planting bed near the porch. They were able to save about a half dozen rose bushes, ferns and a hosta.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

August and September Updates

So, the big update is that we own the house.

After months of wrangling with our lender, loan broker, appraisers, and insurance company, and after nearly dumping all of them and starting over with a different financing model, we got it.

We closed in late August, and work started the first week in September.
We've spent the last few weeks rushing to finalize plans, make last minute changes, and make sure everything fits with LEED. Here's what happened so far:

New Roof - Unthrilling asphalt shingle. The foot or so of insulation beneath is the real action.

Demolition - The most dramatic changes are the complete removal of the attic and bathroom. down to the studs. No big $urpri$
e$, thankfully. (A co-worker redoing his bathroom found studs that still had bark on them. They had to re-frame the whole room to be able to put up drywall.)

Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing - The boiler works, which is great. We're going to powervent it, per LEED, which voids the warranty, which is long expired anyway. Otherwsie, bits of demo and ongoing rough ins.
We're terrifically excited about all of this, but its probably a bit dull if its not your house, and not much of it has to do with LEED. So, Photos:

New Roof...

Dining Room Ceiling Demo...
Bathroom Demo. Notice the joist that was cut nearly through and apparently set on fire to accommodate the toilet. Our toilet will sit a few extra inches out from the wall.

The attic with all the masonite down. We're finishing it so we can put our television, exercise stuff, the Wiii, whatever, politely out of sight. The joists are being extended down to make room for insulation - all the way to the rim joist, rather than insulating the knee walls. That gives us conditioned space to run ERV ductwork across and down to the second floor, a LEED (and common sense) requirement.

In the next few weeks, we should see:
MEP rough-ins done, which lets the drywall/plaster folks come fix our walls and ceilings.
Insulation removal and installation once the interior walls are closed.
Exterior Painting after that.
We are ordering (!) kitchen cabinets tomorrow, for delivery and installation in November-ish. I'll do a big kitchen post this weekend, now that I can stop redesigning.

On our end, we're shopping for small things we said we'd supply to keep the loan amount down, and removing wallpaper as fast as we can. I highly recommend (insist) borrowing or buying (only 60.00) a steamer. No chemicals, no waiting (once it's heated, at least) and the stuff nearly falls off the wall. I'm also struggling to develop a coherent color story that brings our Victorian home and Mid- to Late-Century furniture and art into harmony.

Wish us luck!