Category: home renovation

When Pellets Attack

I noted yesterday how busy I’ve been feeling. Imagine the joy I felt, then, when I came home from work yesterday to find two tons of pellets stacked in front of my garage door, blocking my entrance. There was nothing to be done but get to stacking them. Thankfully, Tomas and Denisa were on hand, and we churned through the stack in about a half hour. A few thoughts:

  • Stacking two tons of pellets is much, much easier than stacking two cord of wood. Or even one cord of wood. A ton of pellets is 50 bags, each of which clock in at 40 pounds. When you divide that up by three people, even two tons is just around 33 bags a person moved. There’s no need for a wheelbarrow, each person can take a bag on every trip, and that stack almost as easily as legos.
  • We bought the nicer grade of pellets this time, after using the cheaper ones for two years. I loaded them into the stove last night, and I can’t tell any visual difference between the two. Supposedly these burn hotter and create less ash, but I’m skeptical. Not skeptical enough not to try them for a year, but we’ll see. In the end, it was only like an extra $50 a ton, or something like that.
  • Running a pellet stove is much, much easier than running a wood stove. There’s less maintenance, and less moving the combustibles. You bring in a bag once a day and fill up the hopper. End of story. There’s no mess from having dirt and leaves and pieces of wood tracked all over the place, either. You can set the stove to keep the room at a certain temperature as well, so you automatically use fewer pellets when it’s warmer outside.
  • Why, then, do we not just switch out our wood stove to a pellet stove? A number of reasons
    • Pellet stoves need electricity to run. If we want our house to be warm in a power outage, we either need to get a generator, or we need a wood stove. When the power goes out and the pellet stove is running, smoke has a tendency to go into the house. That’s a bad thing, in case you were wondering.
    • I like the look and feel of a wood stove. A real fire with logs just looks more homey. Plus, the heat feels stronger and more pervasive to me. It’s a much, much bigger flame.
    • I can’t help thinking wood stoves are cheaper. Pellets are $250 a ton, give or take, and we go through 2.5 tons to keep our addition warm. Wood is like $200 a cord, and we go through around 3 cord to keep the rest of our house warm. I think we’d have to get at least 4 more tons to keep the house going.

In any case, the pellets are in now, and we should be good for the rest of the year. Yay!

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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 been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. 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.

Are Bathroom Faucets Supposed to Have Icicles?

Before I get the responses, please note that yes, I do realize bathroom faucets should not have icicles. I’m not *quite* that dense. However, this didn’t stop me from having a bathroom freeze so solid, it took hours to get it to thaw.

Allow me to provide a little context.

When I left for Thanksgiving, I debated draining the water to my new bathroom. This was still November, after all. Even if it got below freezing outside now and then, surely inside my house it wouldn’t get that bad. Not in an insulated place, even if the heat was off, right?

Still, I ended up deciding it would be best to drain the pipes just in case. But I really just went through the motions. Turned off the water in a couple spots, drained a couple others. I saw water come out when I drained them, so I didn’t think too much more of it.

While we were away, the windchill at home got to around 10 below Fahrenheit. The temperature itself was about 4 degrees. Our friends keeping an eye on the house texted to note the bathroom had icicles hanging from the faucet and asking if they should do anything about it. Speaking from experience now, that’s a bad feeling to have when you’re 500 miles away. In the end, I told them not to do anything, mainly because if they turned on the heat and there was some sort of a leak going on, I wanted someone there who knew the house well enough to easily turn things off.

When we got home yesterday afternoon, I set about looking into the problem. The good news is that (from the research I did), pipes typically burst when they’re under pressure. As long as there’s space for the water to expand, then it expands, but if there’s a bunch of water pressure pushing it one way, and no space for it to expand, then it bursts the pipes. By draining the pipes as much as I had, I’d given it the space it needed. Good thing, too, since it took hours for the bathroom to thaw. The toilet water (what was left in it after draining) was frozen solid. There was a little stalagtite of water in the shower underneath the shower head. The pipes themselves were frozen through and through.

The water all came back eventually, and I see no drips or water leaking from anywhere so (knock on wood) hopefully we avoided a catastrophe. Next time I’ll be more diligent in my draining. Go figure.

In the mean time, it’s a bit chilly up here. Another foot of snow is forecast for tonight. Thank goodness summer is over.

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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 been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. 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.

A New Sunroom

Yesterday we officially resumed work on our house. You already know we’ve been making plans for a new kitchen. That’s going to be a long term project, though, since there are some other smaller projects that need to happen to free up space in the house so that the kitchen can grow.

First up? Tearing down the mudroom on the front of the house and turn it into a sun room.

This is something we’ve wanted to do for quite some time. The house has had two “front doors” since we moved in. At first, this was more than a little confusing, since we’d have delivery people get confused about where to drop off packages. So we’d think we didn’t get anything, only to find out days later the package had been left tucked by the wrong door. It also bewildered people coming over to visit. Which door did they knock at?

Later on, one of the front doors warped, so it didn’t open or close easily. We sealed it up with spray foam and just didn’t use it. But then the room sort of turned into a house dumping ground of sorts. It collected clutter, and we liked to pretend it didn’t exist.

Those times are over. Last week I cleared out all the stuff in there, and yesterday they began tearing it apart. We’ve bought five windows and are going to have the whole space well insulated and lined with window seats that have storage beneath them. This will hopefully let Denisa store her flour containers and such, and do it in a way that’s invisible. (We also need to get rid of a lot of the junk that was in there. It’s scattered throughout the house now. Sigh.)

It’s a good thing we had this done, though. The wood holding up most of that porch turned out to be completely rotten. It will all need to be rebuilt. The plan is to leave the roof that was there in place but to build everything else all over again. It’s not a terribly big spot, but I’m definitely glad I’m not the one doing it.

Once that project is done, we need to add a mudroom to the garage, since the kitchen will be expanding to take up the current space of the mud room. Then we’ll tear the walls down between the kitchen and the mudroom and the kitchen and the sun room, and the kitchen will turn into this huge Voltron of a room that will be awesome.

But for now, it’s demolition duty.

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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 been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. 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 Design Time!

I am not a kitchen designer. I never really had any plans to become one. However, I’m an expert in knowing when I’m not in love with a room layout. We’ve liked our kitchen just fine for the past 11 years, but there have been things that have bugged us about it that whole time. It doesn’t have a lot of windows, so it’s often dark, and it doesn’t get much sunlight, so it’s also often cold. The counters are a bit too low. The cabinets are open on the back, so mice can get inside far too easily. Things like that.

None of these are deal breakers on their own, but as we’ve moved through the house, crossing off renovation projects one at a time, we’re now at the point where tackling the kitchen seems like the next logical step.

And what a step it is.

Our kitchen is right in the middle of our house. It’s right in the main thoroughfare, so to speak. To renovate it will be a job and a half, and it’ll knock a lot of our house out of commission for quite some time. It’s not a job to undertake lightly.

So Denisa and I have been debating how exactly we want it to look when it’s all finished. The plan is to take three rooms and tear down the walls between them, opening them up into one big room. But we were really having a hard time visualizing just how the space would look once that was all finished. For a while we were even thinking we might need to hire a professional kitchen designer, but that didn’t feel right to me. Our house is an old 1800s farmhouse. You can bet they didn’t hire a kitchen designer when they drew it up in the first place, and I didn’t really want a kitchen that looked like it had been professionally designed.

In the end, I resorted to graph paper.

Measure all the rooms, get the dimensions down perfectly on paper, and then you have a bird’s eye view of what it will all look like. Once that was in place, I measured out dimensions of various pieces of furniture: tables, chairs, countertops, appliances. I cut those out in other pieces of graph paper, and then it just turned into a case of moving bits around on a piece of paper to see what different layouts could fit.

After a few hours of brainstorming, I think we’ve got a pretty solid plan in place. The kitchen will be an L shape, with a long counter on one wall, plenty of windows, lots of cabinet space, and an island running parallel to the counter. We’ll have a spot with a u-shaped window seat at the front of the house, and there will be plenty of spots to gather and eat. I wish I could wave a wand and have it all done at once.

Of course, it’s not quite as easy as that. Looking at what needs to happen, I’m struck by how much work it will all be, and how expensive it will no doubt end up. I had hoped at first we’d be able to separate it out across two years of projects, which would help defer the costs a fair bit. Looking at how much has to be done, however, I don’t think that’s feasible. It just doesn’t make sense to stutter step our way through this. We can get some renovations done at first (the window seats at the front of the house, for example), but the bulk of it will need to happen all at once.

So what that likely means is I’ll have to go into “saving for the kitchen” mode. Maybe we take a year off of renovations, or at least have a lighter year. And then when we’ve got enough in the war chest, we can begin the project. Kind of a bummer, since now that I’ve thought through all those renovations, I want them all at once.

But there’s no way I’d go into debt to get them done. The graph paper plans will just have to wait for now . . .

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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 been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. 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.

 

When Things Go According to Plan: Tree Edition

You’ll recall a few weeks ago, a big part of the huge silver maple in my backyard fell down, knocking out my power. (Actually, it looks like that’s already been 1.5 months!) In the aftermath, we looked around at various tree services, finally settling on Hidden Hills Tree Service. They gave us a *much* better estimate and committed to cutting and splitting the wood from the tree for us as well. (When you burn wood and have a big tree fall down on your property, you might as well get some BTUs out of it, right?)

Even then, we still had to arrange for the power company to come and drop the power line so the work could be done, and that took much more finessing than we anticipated. They’re busy people in the summer, it seems. There was one morning that they had open until mid-August, so it was then or much later.

Thankfully, the stars all aligned for that one day to work. However, it was also yesterday, the day I had to be in Orono for a library development day. Denisa’s gone to Slovakia with the kids, so all of this would have to happen without anyone there to make sure it all went smoothly.

I left in the morning, hoping that

  • The power company would come as promised at 8am to drop the line
  • Hidden Hills would come to cut down the tree
  • No trees would fall on my house or anything else important
  • The power company would come back to hook the power back up at 2pm

The whole time I was in Orono, I was checking my phone, waiting for the call that told me things weren’t working. The phone never rang.

I came home at 5:00pm to find this:

For once, it all went as planned. I didn’t have to do anything or be involved at all. It was wonderful. Our birdhouse took a direct hit, knocking the steeple off, but I’m okay with that.

Today, if all goes according to plan, the cutting and splitting will happen. It’s raining, though, so I think there’s a chance that gets delayed.

Still, it’s great to have down. I’m really surprised just how sunny the back yard is now. That tree was very large. I’m sad it had to go, really. I’m a fan of trees, but it had to happen. We’ve been worried since we moved in that it might hit our house or drop a limb on a child. That worry is gone now. Looking at the interior of the wood, it’s clear it had quite a few problems. Lots of bugs and rot.

Anyway, here’s to things working as intended for once. (Knock on wood.)

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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 been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. 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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