Category: home renovation

The Year without a Christmas

It’s been forever since I’ve jumped on here to post. It’s not because I fell off the face of the earth. Rather, I dove deep into the bowels of the kitchen renovation. I’m pleased to report that I’ve (mostly) come out the other side. (The mental image is quite appropriate.) Where is my renovation at the moment? Pretty much all demolition is done. The cabinets are all in. The island is in. The lights are in most of the kitchen. The doors are almost done. The trim is done. Almost everything is painted. The sink is in.

Probably it’s better to ask at this point, what isn’t done? The floor is the big thing. We have it, but it’s not in yet. We also need to finish off the sunroom completely. (Ceiling, walls, trim, electric, and window seats.) The door to the bathroom needs to be put in. (And then the bathroom and mudroom need to be done, but that’ll wait until February or March.)

This hasn’t really been a kitchen “remodel.” This has been the construction of a new kitchen. Most of the walls are rebuilt completely. The electric is totally new, as is the plumbing. We move the location of every major appliance. It’s been a loooong process. And I’ve taken many days of vacation time to help move it along more quickly. On top of that, I’ve usually worked 8-2 or 4pm during the day, and then added on another four hours or so of work at night.

We’ve emptied the dumpster in our driveway four times. It’s not a small dumpster.

The biggest casualty of all of this (other than my back) has been our Christmas season. We have almost no decorations up. We haven’t even had time to buy a tree, let alone decorate it. I did manage to get Christmas shopping done, though I haven’t wrapped anything, and some of it will be coming after Christmas.

For a person who loves to recharge his mental and physical batteries each December, this has been a Not Great Christmas. It’s even worse that it’ll be Tomas’s last Christmas at home. I’m pretty bummed about the whole thing, to say the least. That’s probably another reason I haven’t posted. I just haven’t wanted to think about what this month has been like.

I’ve completely given up on my goals. I haven’t written all month. Haven’t finished a book. Haven’t weighed myself in days. As you’ve noticed, I haven’t blogged. Other than necessities like work, I’ve done almost nothing else other than spend a bit of time with the family each night watching a Cutthroat Kitchen. (When I haven’t roped family members into continuing to work on the kitchen with me.)

The good news(?) is that as I said, we’re through most of it. Denisa is going to get a tree with Tomas in a few hours, and we’ll try to decorate some before the actual holiday hits. Our contractor is coming to work on the house with me tomorrow, and then he’s taking a well-deserved break until the new year. I’ll take the same thing.

I don’t know. It’s been rough, and I’m probably underselling it if anything. The kitchen will look gorgeous, and it’s enormous compared to what it was. They’re coming to measure for the countertops tomorrow, and we’ll get them (theoretically) by mid-February. We’re going to be using plywood and leftover doors as counters until then. I keep thinking that I’ll be looking back at all of this a few months from now and be happy we did it all.

I just wish the timing had ended up being better. It’s not like we planned for it to happen now. It is what it is.

In any case, don’t really plan on seeing me much around here until next year. I’ll be taking what vacation I can scrounge. I hope things are going well for you. Catch you on the flip side.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Glad to Be a Librarian

Sometimes you take a look at your life and realize how happy you are to be where you are and to be doing what you’re doing. That can happen when you have something come across your regular life that just is so right, it reminds you how great you’ve got it. It can also, of course, happen when you do something so far out of what you normally do, and it makes you realize how much better what you normally do really is.

For me, this kitchen renovation has been more of the latter than the former. I am very glad there are people like my contractor who are so good at looking at a space and knowing what needs to be done to that space to turn it into the space you’d like it to be. Not just that, but they’re able to make that happen.

I am not one of those people.

Everyone I’ve talked to about kitchen renovations has commiserated with me about how difficult they are, and I appreciate it. That said, there are multiple elements to this renovation that have made it more difficult than perhaps even a normal kitchen renovation.

  • We’re renovating the oldest part of our house. Built in 1841, when we’re moving some of these walls around, we’re dealing with huge beams, not 2×4’s. More like 8x8s or 12x12s. The floor hasn’t known a straight day in its life, and the walls have only a passing relationship to level. When you’re trying to put normal, modern elements into a kitchen like that, it’s difficult to say the least.
  • The kitchen is over the smallest part of the crawlspace in the basement. Probably about two feet of clearance, and you’re crawling over piles of brick, fieldstone, and dirt, with plenty of spiderwebs, spiders, and the remnants of decades of rodents. I don’t like cramped spaces. I’m not full blown claustrophobic, but I lean in that direction. Yesterday, while I was down in the bowels of my house and had just cut open my hand with a sawzall, I definitely wasn’t hoping to do renovation work for the rest of my life.
  • Our contractor is awesome, but he’s just one guy. We don’t have a team of construction people showing up to git ‘r dun. Because a lot of the work on this project needs another set of hands, that other set of hands has been, typically, me. I’ve taken multiple “days off” to work on the kitchen. Except each day I “take off” just means I’m falling behind on actual work, which means once I’m done with construction (or in the middle of it), I have to jump on a Zoom call or answer emails, or work on grading papers.
  • This is a big renovation. Totally replaced one wall. Tearing down two walls. Combining three different slightly different floor levels. Moving the fridge, sink, oven, and dishwasher. Moving baseboard heat (which we thankfully contracted out). Swapping out the floor and the ceiling. You name it.

And then, above all, is the fact that this has gone on for sooooo long. Between first thinking of the renovations three or four years ago to finally getting around to it, I am so ready for it to be done. Ready to stop the days of getting up and starting construction work first thing, and then continuing that work after my contractor has gone home, to try and get through this quicker. 12 hours a day of construction is enough to remind me that yes, I’d much rather be a librarian.

However, we now have a sink that has running water, even if it doesn’t always drain. We have an over where it belongs, and it works, even if it doesn’t have a range hood yet. We have a fridge that’s plugged in where it’s supposed to be, with a waterline attached to it that doesn’t leak, even if the fridge isn’t quite ready to be put in place. And we have a dishwasher next to the spot it’s going to go, with electrical and water already hooked up next to it.

The ceiling is mostly done. The drywall is . . . halfway finished? We only have one wall left to tear down. We are making progress, even if I’m too tired to recognize it.

I am so looking forward to going back to just being a librarian and author. Stick to my strengths.

But hey: at least I’ll have an awesome kitchen once I get there.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Making Progress

It’s been a bit since I updated you on the kitchen progress. (Actually, it’s been a bit since I updated you, period.) Somehow, we keep moving forward, even though at times it feels like there’s no way we’re going to be able to get anything actually done. The drywall is up, electrical is in the process of being done, we’re working on switching the heat for the room, and we actually have cabinets in place now. Some of them.

Of course, each time we get something done, I just remember all the many many other things we need to do. But I’ve been taking pictures and video from each day, and it’s been helpful to go and look at the earlier videos and remind myself just how much has actually happened. I mean, the floor might not be in yet, but at least I’ve ordered it, and it’s on its way. The lights may not be done, but it’s the same for them. And insulation is largely in.

The problem with big projects like this is that it’s so hard to get to a place where you finally say to yourself that you’re finished. There’s the ultimate goal, and until you get to that goal, it can feel like you’re nowhere close. In this case, I know the kitchen won’t be finished until January or February. They’re coming to measure for the granite on a couple of weeks, and then it’ll be the new year before the granite is installed. However, my hope is that we’ll have at least a usable kitchen well before then.

What do we have to do before we can use the kitchen? Plumbing and electrical. If those are done, then the oven’s back online, the sink will work, and we’ll have a dishwasher again. Those are huge steps. And the good news is that I don’t think we’re that far from being there.

In the meantime, it’s time to take a break from all of it and head down to NYC. Thank goodness we weren’t planning on doing Thanksgiving dinner in our house. Maybe we’ll make a turkey once all of this is over. I will miss not having the traditional meal, but it’ll be good to be somewhere other than my house for a while.

Anyway. Hope you all have a lovely break, and I’ll catch you on Monday!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Kitchen Update: November 12

The kitchen renovation is plodding forward. I don’t want to say the end is in sight, but I’m willing to go so far as to say the concept of “the end” doesn’t seem that ridiculous anymore. Denisa has gotten really good at making meals with a hotplate and an instantpot, though the biggest pain right now is just the dearth of horizontal surfaces to do any prep work on. We’ve got a slew of cabinets, but they’re all missing tops. We took our kitchen table out of the house now as well, since an island will be replacing it. So we end up doing a lot of balancing acts and moving stuff around to make things work. (Honestly. You don’t realize just how much you use horizontal surfaces until you don’t have them any more.)

Where are we with everything in the renovation?

  • The outside of the house is complete! The windows are in, the clapboards are up, the trim’s installed, and it’s all painted. I even went by yesterday and reattached the cable for our internet again. (Don’t want that getting stepped on or cut somehow. If we lose internet in all of this, I think the family will go all Lord of the Flies.) That’s great to have done, since it’s getting cold, and we didn’t have much of a window left to get the paint on. (Paint doesn’t like cold temperatures, you know.)
  • The walls of the bulk of the kitchen are ready. We completely swapped out the back wall, of course, but we also ended up having to build a new wall along one side of the kitchen, since when we ripped down the old siding we discovered one of the main support beams had a four foot chunk missing. (There was a door right next to it, and a wall on the other side. It seemed a safe assumption the beam had enough support to keep things fine, except the wall was in the wrong place, and the door hadn’t been framed properly, so it wasn’t really supporting anything. Yikes.)
  • The biggest hangup at the moment is the electrical. The electrician who had been scheduled to come last Wednesday rescheduled to this coming Monday, and then rescheduled to “never.” Apparently a much bigger job came in, and he couldn’t pass it up. I get it. We’re a small job he was going to squeeze in. Even if we vowed never to use him again, he’d still be better off keeping a larger job happy. However, this leaves us without an electrician. Not sure how we’re going to fix that. Electricians are few and far between at the moment.
  • Once the electrical work is done, then the insulation can go in. (We discovered on Wednesday that getting the sort of insulation we wanted was (naturally) more complicated than usual. We ended up having to pay more for something that could be delivered sooner. Waiting at this point isn’t really an option I want to explore. Though maybe I’ll have to, because of the electrical work?)
  • Once the insulation is up, the drywall can go up.
  • Once the drywall is up, the cabinets can go in.
  • Once the cabinets are in, the sink can get hooked up. (Assuming we can get a plumber. We’re also in need of a heating person to come move some of the baseboard heating around . . .) We can also put some plywood down then to use for makeshift counters until the granite comes . . . eventually.

We also need to finish off the ceilings, and redo the floor. And take down another wall, and build some window seats. And swap out two more doors. And frame out and build a mudroom. And get around to renovating the downstairs bathroom. Do you see why I say the end isn’t really in sight? I thought writing it down might make me feel better, but . . . not really. We bought flooring though. That has to count for something, right?

Any and all good thoughts would be appreciated.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Kitchen Renovation Progress

Lest you think I’m just paying for all the work on my house at this point and doing none of it myself, my Saturday would like to have a word with you. (My Thursday and Friday afternoons would, as well.) We’re still doing what we can to reduce the cost of the renovation and be of some use in the process. So Saturday Denisa and Daniela could be found outside painting clapboards so that they’re ready to go up on the house this week. This isn’t anything terribly difficult: just setting the clapboards up on saw horses and then painting them and letting them dry. But it takes time, and time is money when it comes to a renovation.

Meanwhile, Tomas and I were inside working on removing some of the old flooring to prepare the area for an upgrade. Working with an old house, you never really know what you’re going to get. This part of the house had felt a bit soft over the last while, so we wanted to be sure not to build over anything that might cause us problems in the future. I got to work with a crowbar early on Saturday morning, and I quickly became discouraged.

The part of the floor I was trying to remove turned out to be a fair bit more complicated than I had assumed. To make it level, someone had screwed down multiple strips of plywood, one on top of the other, putting screws in a pattern I couldn’t discern. Apparently to give it more nuance, they included asphalt shingles in between some of those strips, sometimes one, sometimes as many as eight. This made finding the screws even more complicated. They they laid down plywood over the whole lattice work, and screwed the plywood to the strips. They spread a layer of glue on tip of this and then put some vinyl tiles on top of that.

You still with me?

The bottom line was that to remove all of this, I had to first chip off the vinyl tiles and hope to find the screws attaching the plywood to the slats. Some of those could be unscrewed. Some of them had gotten glued in place. For those, I had to use a crowbar to rip them out. In the end, I took a circular saw and cut long lines in the floor on either side of each slat. Then it was a bunch of prying, unscrewing, and frustration, but Tomas and I finished it (about 150 square feet) in around 9 hours.

I’ve definitely done things I’ve enjoyed more in my life, but it saved me having to pay someone else to do all of that instead. It didn’t really require much knowledge, just time and an aching back.

The back wall of the kitchen is mostly done, and the new floor should be in today or tomorrow. (Not the actual flooring–just the plywood it’ll all go on. Wednesday the electrician’s supposed to come, and once the outlets and everything is in, then we can start putting up drywall and cabinets.

Just as long as there are no more asphalt shingle surprises . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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