Category: home renovation

Home Renovations on the Horizon

Surely you didn’t think that just because we were in the middle of a global pandemic, I’d stop doing work on my house? Because that would be just silly. No, the more immediate question would be “Can Bryce afford to do work on his house?” And as we get closer and closer to fall semester, my Magic 8 Ball is consistently saying “Signs Point to Yes.”

Some upgrades need to happen one way or another. The bay windows on our house have had issues for years. The trim is rotting in some places, and a few boards have even fallen off, leading a family of birds to move in just above Daniela’s bedroom. At times, she thinks that’s cute. But when it’s early morning and they’re all tweeting away up there, the cute seems to magically fade somehow. (And who knows what structural damage those birdies might be doing to the house . . .)

Once that’s done, that means the fresh wood will need to be painted. This is on the second floor of the house, and I have no desire to paint that myself. Plus, the trim all around the house needs to be redone, as much of it is peeling and very sad looking. And late last fall, a wind storm ripped down some of the clapboards from our addition. (They’d been put up by our heroin-addict contractor from years ago. The one who stole $3,000 from us? We keep finding lovely little presents like that. Instances where he cut corners left and right, because heroin ain’t gonna buy itself, folks.)

And of course, there remains the grand-daddy of all renovations: our plans to redo the kitchen. Those have been kicked back to September, but after looking at our finances, things still look go for launch for them. I can’t wait for this project to be over, for a number of reasons:

  • It’s going to be very expensive, and budgeting for it has been a real pain the rear.
  • It’s gotten kicked back multiple times, and each time it’s gotten kicked back, I’ve had to approach it fresh when it came time to actually prepare. I’ve spent so many hours looking at cabinets and counter tops, only to discover I couldn’t afford to do it right then. Redoing that research each time is less than fun.
  • It’s the last “big renovation” project on the house. After this one, the things we want to get done are much smaller, and they don’t necessarily have to be done in any particular order. We need to renovate the downstairs bathroom, and we’d like to redo the office. Some of the roof needs new shingles. But all of those are straightforward projects. This kitchen renovation has a ton of moving pieces.
  • It’s going to seriously disrupt our household. The kitchen is the center of our house, physically and socially. You can’t get to anywhere else without going through it. The actual act of renovating it will be seriously annoying.

So right now, I’m hoping that fall semester goes well, and that I can write a blog post by November that says “Mission Accomplished.” I think the odds are slightly in my favor of that happening, but you never know. Wish me luck.

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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 the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That 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.

The Bar for “A Good Day” Has Been Significantly Lowered

How’s your Tuesday going? Mine’s going pretty great. Why? Because I now have a functional fridge and freezer in my house. That’s right! Instead of having to find a pair of shoes and trek out to the garage anytime I want a glass of milk or some ice cream, I can just traipse across the room. A few months ago, “having a working fridge” would have seemed like something that should just be a given. These days, solving basic problems like that feels like a cause for celebration. (Especially when it looked for a while like we wouldn’t get the fridge until late August.)

Of course, it wasn’t all strawberries and sunshine getting the new fridge in. For one thing, all of our doors are too small to fit the new fridge into our kitchen. One of the joys of having a house that was built in 1841 is that none of the doors are standard sized. Some are 30 inches wide, some are as narrow as 27 inches, and the rest are in between there. The new fridge just barely fit through the screen door on the back of the house. If it hadn’t . . . I don’t know what we would have done.

This means, of course, that it didn’t fit through the door to the kitchen. Not that it mattered, because the spot where we have our fridge now didn’t fit the new fridge anyway. This means it’s in the room next to the kitchen, which is still close enough in my book. (It’s also an even bigger incentive to renovating the whole kitchen this fall . . .) It also means that this fridge feels ginormous. It’s supposedly 25.5 cubic feet of coolness. (We got a freezer on the bottom model, with no in-door ice or water, because those always seem to break. No french doors either, because this America. Not France.)

I only had to go to the crawlspace once, which in terms of home improvement upgrades, is a real bonus as well. (Somehow I’d forgotten the fact that we’d have to worry about turning off the waterline to the current fridge. It’s in the crawlspace, and I didn’t even come across one mouse carcass on the way. Huzzah!

Anyway. That’s my Tuesday so far. How is yours going? Did you do something exhilarating as well? Maybe you got a haircut, or you successfully put on pants? Let’s look on the bright side, people. Before COVID, I always complained that kids got congratulated for things that never seemed to get me the same sort of praise. Showering themselves. Not pooping their pants. Speaking simple sentences. Now, with quarantine, I get to experience the same sort of benefits!

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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 the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That 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.

The Death of a Fridge

Ever since we moved into our house, our fridge has been a constant companion. Always in the background, humming, keeping our food cold and our ice cream frozen, ready to offer a little bit of deliciousness whenever we felt a bit peckish. And like many constants in life, we came to take our fridge for granted. It wasn’t moving anywhere. What other options did it have?

And as the years went by, it began to develop its own little quirks and nuances. It would keep your frozen section frozen, but if you didn’t open and close the freezer door periodically, it would decide maybe you weren’t that interested in ice cream after all, and so it would stop working as well. I don’t know why it did this, and I never really cared to look into the reasons too carefully. I just knew you had to open and shut the freezer door once a day or so.

But that was a red flag. A sign that our relationship with our fridge was waning. If we’d been smart, maybe we would have paid attention and fixed the problem. But let’s be honest. The fridge was never a top of the line model. It was just . . . there. Freezer on the top, fridge down bottom. Brand name? No clue. Mayfairgidaire?

In any case, a month ago, the freezer died completely. A whole tub of ice cream, ruined. All sorts of meat, done for. It started leaking water into the fridge compartment as well, and we knew the Time Had Come. All good relationships end eventually, I suppose. We needed a new fridge.

Except apparently the middle of a pandemic is a bad time to buy major appliances? Scratch that. You can buy the appliances. Companies have no trouble taking your money. But getting those appliances is a different matter. We found a fridge we liked at Lowe’s. We ordered it. As we were ordering, it said it would get here in mid-June (this was back toward the end of May). Fine. Whatever.

Once we’d bought it, they switched the estimation to mid-August. Nice. Even then, we thought we’d be able to last.

Until last week, when the fridge stopped working too. Now the whole thing is basically a cooler with a light in it. We have a back up fridge in the garage from when Denisa used to bake and needed the extra fridge space, but taking a trek to the garage every time I need a glass of milk is a bit much.

What if we ordered a fridge from Lowe’s or Home Depot that was actually in stock? We checked. We tried. No dice. Actually getting a fridge we wanted to get here before the end of August just didn’t seem to be in the cards. Denisa faced the problem head on and started calling local retailers. It took a while, but she finally struck pay dirt.

We now have a fridge coming on Tuesday. One that will even have a working freezer, and might even work without being finicky. (Hope springs eternal.) I will say that having grown accustomed to being able to get anything I want whenever I want it, this pandemic time has been a real eye-opener, reminding me of how it can still be elsewhere, and how it used to be for us.

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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 the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That 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 Planning Continues: Decision Overload

When I approach a problem, I like to break it down into its fundamentals. Don’t look at writing a book as tackling a 100,000 word problem. Look at it as 100 different 1,000 word goals, and suddenly it’s much more attainable. That’s a process that has served me well over the years, but it’s one that’s being severely tested by my plans to renovate the kitchen.

The basic problem is that there are just too many decisions for me to process at once, especially since I like to find The One Best Answer to each problem. If I want to fly to Orlando, I do research to find the best flight to take me there, accommodating for price, time, comfort, and convenience. That’s a problem with a solution. Kitchens are problems with solutions as well. But there are so many of those individual problems . . .

Case in point: Denisa and I want new cabinets, but we don’t want to break the bank to get them. So to figure out what the “best cabinets” for us are, we have to balance cost, materials, colors, design, and construction. But each one of those breaks down into further decisions. I could have someone come and make custom cabinets. It would be expensive. But even then, I’d have to decide what I want them to look like, where they should go, what should be inside them, etc.

Right now, I’m looking at using Barker Cabinets. They’re a company out of Oregon that makes ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets out of really solid materials. I’ll know exactly what I’m getting with them, and the cost is cheaper than custom made, but more expensive than other RTA cabinets (of questionable quality). But even having made that decision, I still need to tackle color, size, function, and the like.

It’s tempting to just throw my hands up and say, “I want cabinets. I don’t care what they look like. I just want ones that work.” But that’s not going to get me what I really want in the long run, so instead I just have to bite the bullet and take the time to churn through the decisions, one by one. Still, some of the decisions get to be so nitty gritty. There are options for what sort of hinges your cabinets have. Soft close? Do I want the doors to be pure maple, or maple frames with MDF centers? Do I want toe kicks that are recessed or flush?

And this is just for cabinets! I have to do the same process for countertops, appliances, electrical outlay, flooring, and more?

Thank goodness I’m starting this well in advance . . .

Anyone else out there handle a kitchen renovation on your own? How did you wrangle all the countless details into something manageable?

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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 the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That 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.

Removing the Rust from a Wood Stove

The whole time we’ve lived in Maine, we’ve used a wood stove as our primary way of heating the house. The first winter, the stove we had was old and inefficient, and so we replaced it before the next winter with one that is ever so much nicer. (The difference? A tight wood stove will keep air out, which lets you control the burn of the wood inside. You can throw in some wood in the evening before you go to bed, and then you still have a great bed of coals by the morning so that all you need to get it going again is to put more wood in. With our first wood stove, the fire was dead every morning. Completely burned out.)

For the most part, the stoves take care of themselves. Dust them, Clean the glass a bit, but they’re tanks. Year in. Year out. Except every now and then they get some rust. At that point, the thing that never needs attention suddenly needs a fair bit of it.

I took today off, and a good portion of my day has been spent focused on our wood stove, because the rust this year has been much worse than in years past. Usually I’d just have to repaint parts of the stove every three years or so, but I just redid this last year, and here I am again. I’m not sure if it’s because I didn’t get all the rust last year, or if this year has just been particularly humid. Or maybe it’s because we were working on the front of the house some, and so more outside air got in than has in the past.

In any case, it’s been work. I use a steel brush attachment for my drill, and that does a good job at getting most of the rust off. I’ve been trying to do even more this year than before, wondering if that will make it so that it doesn’t come back as quickly next time. (We’ll also be using a different pot to put on top of the stove. Wood stoves dry the air out a ton, so we usually stick something with water in it on top of the stove to add some water back into the air. I’m wondering if ours was leaking . . . )

With the rust off, I just need to spray paint the stove with some heat resistant paint, and we should be good to go. Of course, that means taping off the parts of the stove I don’t want paint on, which all adds to the time investment. All in all, the “day off” isn’t feeling very “day offy.”

Has anyone else out there been having more trouble with rust this year than usual, or is it just me? What have you done to address rust on stoves in the past?

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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 the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That 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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