Sunday, June 17, 2012

Porch demolition, yeah!

This post is dedicated to my dear old dad on Father's Day! Without him, I'm sure we'd never have the desire or confidence (skill development is still in progress) to tackle such a lifelong project. His help and enthusiasm for true craftsmanship has gotten us so much further than we ever could have gotten ourselves.  Hopefully he can come over soon and enjoy our improved front porch.  

I've often said that our porch looks like someone parked an RV from the 1970s in front of our house.  I mean, OMG, those windows!  

The ones that are open are the ones that are not broken.
Gabe's mom told us once that they were salvaged from Martha's Restaurant, which was a popular place in Bethel back in the day.  I wonder why they would want to get rid of these beauties?

 Luckily, the original posts were still in there, encased in clapboards. Could be worse, I guess.

It got worse inside.  Meet our old friend, Painted Particle Board.

Because we're still suffering from an overabundance of stuff, and because the porch is generally unpleasant, it  more often served as storage during our various other projects than being the nice summer hang-out spot it should be.  So this is what it looked like on a good day:

Add all that up with fungus growing on both the floor and the ceiling and you can see how we were ready for change.  

The floor was covered in a mysterious substance that turned to mush when it got wet, which was all the time, because the roof leaks in several places.  By the time I ripped it up, it was literally growing mushrooms.  You should be thanking your lucky stars that I couldn't find the camera before I eliminated that.  It turns out the mystery substance was just an underlayment that never got its overlayment, and was definitely never meant to get wet.  

1982 was a rough year for porch renovations.
So I pulled up the floor first.  The craziest part about the whole underlayment fiasco was that the floor underneath wasn't half bad!  A few patches and a new coat of paint and they would have been in business.

1982 "under"layment on left, halfway decent wood floor exposed on right.  
We knew we'd be in for a big project, but like the rest of our house, there were strong bones and much potential under all those layers of yuck.  The posts and trim work around the door and windows were in great shape.

Gabe got a head start on wiring when we worked in the ceilings of the wall on the interior of this wall.  So yay for that.

When I was out for the day on Saturday, Gabe went nuts on the walls.  Since he can't use a Sawzall and take self-portraits at the same time, he didn't get any awesome demolition shots.  But it was pretty sweet for me to come home to this!

Woohoo!  I bet the neighbors didn't even know we had those windows.  

And look, we have a decent-looking front door. Bet you didn't know that either!

Perhaps the greatest part about this is that it forced us to clean off our porch, forever, because we have nothing to hide our clutter anymore.  The attic is a little more stuffed but it feels so good to have another whole space empty!

I really underestimated the difference this would make - the living and dining rooms have so much more afternoon light.  I will have to see if I can find some pictures that will help demonstrate the difference.  We feel so much more exposed, but in a good way.  And the smell is much better without the mushroom colony growing out of the floor.

Of course, it's not all fun and games.  You also definitely notice the peeling paint, which is the worst in the areas where the porch roof deflects the rain...

...and there's a lot of caulk and gunk where the panels between the posts were affixed.  We have a lot of scraping in our future.

Overall, it could be a heck of a lot worse.  It doesn't feel unsafe or anything.  The roof could get interesting, and it might need to be jacked up a couple of inches.  But hey, anything that gets us closer to hanging up that porch swing we got for our wedding nearly two years ago (that's still in the box) is a good thing, right?  We're forward thinkers.  

Monday, May 28, 2012

Kitchen: painted!

Dear reader, I know it's been awhile since we've updated you on our progress.  Believe me, we're not neglecting you when that happens.  It's our poor house that's being neglected.  So, when faced with a three-day weekend, we wanted to have a little fun.  In our case, that means three uninterrupted days of housework.

We divided and conquered.  Gabe got to go outside in the beautiful weather and plant the garden.  I got to stay inside and sand and paint the kitchen.  

Normally I can't wait to paint.  It is the most satisfying part of home improvement, in my opinion. With the kitchen, however, we primed it just after Thanksgiving and it has languished ever since.  We had tried wet-sanding the joint compound on the walls and ceilings for the first time.  Wet sanding is a technique in which you use a special sponge to essentially wet down and wipe off excess joint compound from your bare drywall.  The advantage to this is that there is no dust.  Dry sanding with special screens or sanding pads creates an especially hellish kind of dust that will infiltrate absolutely every nook and cranny of your house. 

So we did the wet sanding and it seemed to be going just swell.  In our effort to get as much work done as possible during our Thanksgiving kitchen blitz, we slapped up a coat of primer on the ceiling as soon as it dried.  It was dark out.  When we saw it in the daylight the next day, we realized we had made a big mistake!  It was terribly lumpy, our worst ceiling yet.  We should be getting better at this, not worse! And because we had primed it already, it was going to be nearly impossible to fix.  Thank goodness we hadn't also primed the walls! We probably would have it we weren't planning on doing those in red primer.  

We touched up the walls with dry sanding pads, which are firm and flat and made a nice, smooth surface.  We realized that because the wet sanding sponges are wet and floppy, it would be very difficult to ever make it smooth.  Maybe we're missing something. It turned out that the combo of the two techniques worked well - the dust was reduced overall because so much material was removed with the wet sanding first, and the results were really good on the walls.  

That brings us back to our wrecked ceiling.  I meant to do a post when our friend Colin (a favorite here at the Corner Lot for his deck-building and general handy-person skills) came over near Christmastime and helped us plow through a long list of annoying things that needed to get done.  One of those things was attempting to fix our ceiling.  He talked us down from a ledge, so to speak, when we were considering skim-coating the whole thing.  We didn't have the proper tools and he was convinced we didn't need to endure that level of mess or difficulty.  So we scraped and patched and scraped and patched.  It was grim.  

We did the best we could.  Then, suddenly, it was May!  We just couldn't bring ourselves to sand our patching job because we were too busy living in it and it is such a pain to clean up the results.  So I found a solution: just let the whole house get dirty enough that it needs a top-to-bottom cleaning anyway, then sand away.  

So, here we are.  I spent Saturday packing away everything that wasn't in a cupboard and sanding that darn ceiling once and for all.  I knew it wouldn't be perfect, but we just got so sick of it being not done that it didn't matter anymore. The unfinished ceiling was really holding us back, because you have to paint the ceiling before you paint the walls, and you have to paint the walls before you install the trim, and you have to do everything before you finish the floors...and we had a self-imposed moratorium on putting anything on our mostly-bare walls in all the downstairs rooms until that sanding was done. So, before bedtime I had it all primed again and we finally ready to move on. I was quite proud of myself.

The sad part about me making this short story long is that there's no way I can illustrate to you in photos the progress we made.  A white ceiling is a white ceiling is a white ceiling in pictures.  And the walls are still red, just more red.  But I'll do the best I can.

Here's before - it's a little scruffy looking.  Very flat primer on both the ceiling and the walls.

And after: more primer and super flat ceiling paint hiding a multitude of sins - which will hopefully be even less obvious when we move past the bare-bulb phase.

Here's the best I could do to show the difference in our old red and new red.  The new red, Benjamin Moore's Chili Pepper, is on the top.  In the photo, it's still wet so it looks shiny, but it's pretty matte now that it's dry.  The old red, Behr's Poinsettia, is on the bottom.  This is just the primer tinted that color - the real top coat was an enamel, I believe.  Extra shiny to highlight every...single...bump...**shudder**.  It was much more orangey.  Let's just say we don't miss it. 

I am totally awesome at free-handing a crisp paint line, no blue tape necessary (that's why Gabe gets to play all day in the garden).  Just another one of my many skills that is quite useful yet will get me nowhere in life. Coulda been a surgeon if I didn't hate blood and guts. 

What remains of the wall between the kitchen and dining room got Country Dairy like the living room and dining room.  We figured that would help open up the room visually and balance out the red so you don't feel like you're in a big red box.  

As a bonus, I finally got to paint this godforsaken beam!  This might be the most momentous part of this whole day.  The ceiling has been in a state of distress for 6 months, but that beam has been exposed and unfinished for, no joke, eight freaking years since that wall came down.  It also got the Country Dairy treatment. 

Saturday was a beautiful day, 75 and sunny with a breeze, perfect drying weather.  I was able to paint non-stop from about 10 am to 4 pm. Ceiling white, Country Dairy, two coats of Chili Pepper, done!  It was a watershed moment for the kitchen.  Now two aspects of this kitchen are totally done - the counters and the paint - and all those other projects I mentioned earlier can happen.  Hopefully it won't be another 6 months. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Doors & drawers!

We've been awfully busy lately, so it's great when the kitchen fairy comes over sometimes and gets a little work done when we don't have the time (not to mention skills).  Last week she sent Greg to install some beautiful countertops, and this week she sent my dad to deliver some cabinet doors.

That butcher block island top she dispatched a few weeks ago makes a sturdy work bench for a drill press, as it turns out.

The drill press was required to install these hinges that look like they came off a space ship or something.

They allow the doors to fully open so the pull-out shelves can, well, pull out.

Check these bad boys out. Drawer fronts!  Cabinet doors!

Look, there are more under the sink!

And on the back of the island!

We went with a simple flat-panel door here because they are 1.) easier to make 2.) won't be a focal point and 3.) will be hidden by stools. We have "permission" from the carpenter himself to add some sort of artistic detail here if we wish.  We'll see.

We've got four drawers to the left of the sink.  Big, wide, deep drawers with fancy glides that don't allow the drawers to grind themselves into sawdust and deposit it into the cabinet below (that may or may not have happened in our old cabinets).

Up top we got some glass fronts to show off our fabulous Fiestaware.

All those drawer fronts are made out of former baseboards from this very house, so they'll match all our woodwork once they get polished up.  We ran out of my great-grandmother's beadboard, so my dad fabricated the rest out of $72 worth of 2x4s he bought at Lowe's.  Not a bad deal.

Here's the full effect so far:

Oh.  My.  God. We'll have to wait 'till the kitchen fairy's next visit for the upper doors. But it looks almost like a real kitchen!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Countertops DONE!

***Cue harp music***

Look at that - real, grownup countertops!  To accomplish this, we had a rare sighting in our house: a professional. Auntie Noelle Gauthier, kitchen designer extraordinaire at Hancock Lumber in Bridgton, Maine, set us up with Greg Smith of Stone Surface, also in Bridgton.

It wasn't a tremendous amount of square footage, but we did challenge him with our sink that's shaped roughly like a marshmallow.  Even the straight-looking parts aren't really that straight, as it turns out. Back in the day, this baby would have been probably mounted directly to the wall and/or propped up on legs with a table or something next to it.  None of this fancy built-in stuff.  So, yeah.  We didn't make it easy on poor Greg by asking him to deal with the slightly flared back corner, rounded front protrusion, windowsill, large gap between the sink and the wall, etc.  But he pretty much nailed it.  Once we figured it all out as he made a template, he made the actual installation look easy.  The whole installation process didn't take much more than an hour.

Here's how it went together behind the sink - we set the sink away from the wall so that the rounded front wouldn't create an awkward slop-collecting nook where it sat on top of the cabinet.  Also, it looks badass.

To support the vertical pieces, Greg cut the counter in such a way that there was a couple inches of the horizontal piece behind the sink.  (The excess white goop was wiped off and dried clear. Then the vertical pieces support the magnificent windowsill, upon which we will keep our collection of kitchen herbs.  Someday.

Is that a sexy windowsill or what?
The top of the windowsill is flush with the top of the sink, and the windowsill overhangs its support pieces by an inch or so for extra detail.

We got a backsplash out of the deal too.

The stone is called Delicatus and in real life, it's got lots of colors - greenish, garnet spots, some streaks of rust, and it's very three-dimensional.  Greg said something about drinking a glass of wine and staring at it.  I guess that's what stone guys do in their spare time. Now that's passion! It looks fabulous, it was beautifully installed, and we can't believe it's actually in our kitchen.  Now that we've got this plus butcher block on the island, we can officially check countertops off the list! Yee-haw! Thanks to Noelle and Greg!

Monday, February 13, 2012

How we're making old into new in the kitchen

There's something special about that first time in a project when you see an actual, finished surface.  So it was pretty exciting when Dad brought over some actual, finished cabinet end panels.

We thought long and hard about how to integrate a new kitchen with the very consistent style of our old house. The old kitchen left us very little to salvage - we're pretty much stripping the trim, hoping for the best on the floors, and that's about it. Everything else is/will be new, or at least new to the house.  But we really love all the old stuff in the house, specifically the original, never painted woodwork throughout the house.  The fact that all the woodwork was never painted presented a conundrum when considering how to match, or at least be consistent with, the rest of the woodwork.  When paint's involved, you can build new stuff out of whatever you want and make it all the same color.  But if you're in Maine looking to coordinate with 87-year-old Southern pine, you've got a challenge on your hands....

...unless your mother has secretly been hoarding a stash of the very same stuff from her grandmother's house, built in the same era not 25 miles from here. (You knew there was going to be a punchline.)

Sheesh, it looks like it came off the same train! When my mom finally sold the house I grew up in last spring, my brother identified this stuff in the attic of the garage and knew we had to have it.  When I saw it, I knew our long-awaited kitchen renovation may finally be within sight.  Of course it was filthy, but it was the right stuff and never painted.  Some of it is even autographed, so we'll have a third signature to add to Fred & Frank's.  This particular piece was made out of cut-down beadboard cabinet doors in a frame made from thick door jambs.

Here we have the end of the cabinet to the left of the sink...

The side of the upper cabinet...

The other end of the island...

and the piece de resistance...the dishwasher!

The dishwasher apparently took some extra work.  How's this for dedication: when Dad ran out of Memere's beadboard, he simply went to Lowe's, spent two hours looking through Douglas fir two-by-fours, and made his own.  Then he framed it in teak.  Yup, we've got a teak-front dishwasher.

So that's the beginning of the story about how my father took my great-grandmother's kitchen and re-made it into ours, in Gabe's grandparents' house.  I guess it's official - we can never move.  I think I can deal with that.