Renovation Week 3: The Weakening


The biggest surprise this week: learning that my kitchen has been completely uninsulated since it was built. I wonder how much money  we’ve literally burned over the last 20 years heating this place, between that and the windows that never quite closed or sealed correctly.

I especially like the large hole where some duct used to exit.
I especially like the large hole where some duct used to exit.


Also, more unplanned destruction this week, as the contractor wandered the house attempting to map out the electrical circuits in the place. Continue reading “Renovation Week 3: The Weakening”

Renovation Week 2: A Man, A Plan


Not a ton of visible change this week. The skeleton of the wall that used to divide the kitchen and dining room is gone, so you can now get a feeling for this as a single room:


Some plumbing demo was done while I was in Pasadena for work, and we’ve put down deposits on the cabinetry and ordered the bathroom fixtures. I’ll be happy to start writing more checks for things that I want added, not to have people wreck stuff and leave my house a mess. I can do that myself.

Continue reading “Renovation Week 2: A Man, A Plan”

Renovation Week 1: The Destroyers


A noisy and messy week here — the demo crew came to gut the upstairs bathroom and most of the kitchen. Not a great couple of days to be working from home. Scarlet was especially apoplectic with all the people and the noise.

The fun thing at the moment is that since both the bathroom floor and kitchen ceiling are gone, we can see up into the second floor.

Looking up into the 2nd floor bathroom
Looking up into the 2nd floor bathroom


Another view, tub location.
Another view, tub location.

Continue reading “Renovation Week 1: The Destroyers”

Renovation Week 0


After a long long period of not believing that this project was ever going to actually happen, we’ve hired a contractor and find ourselves suddenly in the position of not being ready, scrambling to get things in order for demolition to begin this week. They’re actually going to gut the kids’ bathroom first, so we get a few more days of access to the kitchen, but we’re still getting as much moved out of there as we can.

A few before pictures:

The wall on the left here dividing the kitchen from the dining room will be gone soon.

(Boy, I hate this 70s-tastic kitchen) Continue reading “Renovation Week 0”

Time to Take the Chill Off 

(my new furnace)
Shiny and new

Last week, we had a tech come out for pre-winter check and tuneup of the two furnaces in our house (when we put an addition on in 2003, we opted to put a second, small, HVAC system just for the new construction rather than getting a single large unit for the whole house, a decision I regret for a bunch of reasons now).

The tech started on the furnace for the addition, and called me down after looking at it for 20 minutes or so. One of the first things that he tested showed that the Carbon Monoxide level inside the heat exchanger was double its legal limit and was still climbing when he hit the emergency off switch. No immediate danger to us (and I have redundant CO detectors in the house after an incident shortly after we bought the place), but enough of a potential danger that he had to take the unit offline permanently.

So, Saturday was spent talking to burly dudes who sell heating systems.

We made a deal and were hoping for a Monday installation, maybe Tuesday. Turns out they didn’t actually have the unit I bought on a shelf and had to get one shipped. Thursday install. Oh, and the new ductwork may stretch into Friday morning.

Luckily this week has been relatively warm, but when I walked into my office Monday morning, it was 56 F, which is tool cold for my fingers to be able to type accurately. All week long during the day I’ve cranked the furnace in the old part of the house with heat and aimed a fan at the base of the stairs up toward my office door, so it’s been bearable.

They just delivered the unit, which is freakishly tiny (and I know that it’ll expand when they start building the plenum and whatever other HVAC words they’ll charge me big bucks for), and should start ripping the old one out shortly. The furnace is directly beneath my office, so likely to be a noisy day.

It’s supposed to go up near 70 degrees this weekend, so it’ll keep that new furnace smell a little while longer.


Update: They were done with the installation by 1:30 PM. All new ductwork, installed much more cleanly than the original install was, and also positioned so that it will be easier to service in the future.

Renovation Log #1

After exactly a year of dormancy, breathing some air into the dead lungs of this site.

Catching Up

We’re planning to:

  • re-do our kitchen (blowing out a wall to absorb the current dining room into a much larger kitchen, destroying the awesome 1970s styling, getting a much better grade of semi-pro apppliances)
  • convert the existing (essentially unused) living room into a new dining room
  • replace all the (drafty, leaky, un-openable) windows on old downstairs part of the house)
  • gut and re-do the bathroom shared by the kids’ rooms.

We started working with an architect in the late winter of this year, hoping to start construction in the Spring, and be done by the time that school started in September.

I hate my kitchen.
I hate my kitchen.


Where We Are

We received the bid drawings from the architect in June, and finally got a strangely drafted bid from a single contractor in mid-August. We went back and forth trying to edit that proposal into something that we could treat as a set of separate items that could be kept or removed to fit the project into our available budget, and just before sitting down to sign a contract and write a deposit check for the work, we realized that the advice we had received to not worry about bidding the project competitively was not the best choice to have made.

We’ve now met with three additional contractors who all specialize in the special problems and challenges of working in old houses like ours (as the last builder we met with said, “Heck — anyone can do new construction. That’s simple.”), and are waiting to receive bids from them.

The interesting thing at this point (well, one interesting thing) is that each of the people we’ve talked to has identified parts of the project that are of serious concern to them. None of their areas of concern overlap. Each of them identified lists of code violations that needed significant work or potential areas where we’ll be surprised by various disasters once the work begins, and those lists have surprisingly little overlap.

What Were We Thinking?

To quote future president Trump, “You tell me. You tell me.”