Saturday, January 15, 2022

One part partly done

Another long-overdue update - we've spent the spring/summer/fall making decisions, tracking down supplies, and doing install and the work has paid off in that we are now officially moved into the addition!  Not that moving into the addition means we're done (not even close) but it does mean we are done enough to live in the new space.  And living in the new space - with hardwood floors, a large kitchen island, and double bathroom sinks, among other things - is a delight.  Onto the pictures!

Starting in the kitchen - pretty much a blank slate to begin:

Cabinet delivery day!  This is a lot of cabinets...

Getting started.  There is a method to the madness here, it's just hard to tell what that method is!  But installation involved liberal use of the laser and levels to make sure everything was straight.

Top and outer cabinets all installed and starting to move to the upper cabinets.

Now this is starting to look like the plan!  Getting the island set into place and figuring out spacing for everything.

Blocking out the bar top overhang and the table on the end to see how it'll all fit together.

Once we had the cabinets installed, there was a long lag while we selected a countertop (Calacatta Miraggio Gold) and then had it installed and waited months for our appliances to arrive.  Fortunately, our old kitchen was still in place so even though it was somewhat unsatisfying to have a new yet unusable kitchen in the house, there wasn't much rush to get things done.

Finally getting appliances installed - hello wine fridge!  You will be well loved here.

This is looking more complete (although still missing two backordered bar stools here).  Microwave and dishwasher are installed in the island.

Custom walnut table built by Brian for the eat-in and integrated refrigerator column and freezer drawers hiding behind the walnut panels on the right

Just need a backsplash and light fixture over the table and this space will be complete!

And now moving on to the primary bathroom on the second floor of the addition.  We decided to use extra large format white marble tiles for the shower - and made good use of the family room floor space to lay everything out first.  The tiles are not meant to fit together perfectly (though some do) so it was a bit of a puzzle to make sure we liked how the veining looked once it was all together.

Skipping forward - tiles on the walls!

Next up, a gray cement look tile for the floor.

Now with grout, fixtures, and glass shower door!  If only things moved as quickly in real life as these few pictures imply.

The vanity is a custom cabinet by the same company that made our kitchen cabinets.  Bathroom fixtures are Moen Doux and countertop is Calacatta Miraggio (the same as the kitchen but with gray veining).

Then we made our first attempt at wallpaper using Owens wallpaper in Denim by Serena & Lily.  I had read that this wallpaper was somewhat fussy to work with and agree with that assessment.  Maybe not the best choice for our first wallpaper attempt but fortunately, the small, single wall turned out well enough to keep it.  We painted the bathroom walls in the same color as the rest of the addition (Benjamin Moore Silver Chain) before we picked out tile.  Then we committed to the gray cement look floor tiles and didn't love just how much gray was in the bathroom everywhere.  So this feature wall introduces a nice bit of color into the room.

And now with custom white oak framed mirrors built by Brian.

And now back down to the first floor but the other side this time - the family room space adjacent to the kitchen.  Because this is part of the existing house, the new windows are set back so Brian built custom walnut frames for them.

The old fireplace was plain red brick and needed an upgrade so we started by installing a black tile threshold here.

Then moved onto a new tile surround.

Then Brian went back into his workshop to build a custom white oak mantle.

Just dry fitting it here before we grout the tiles.

And done!  Just in time to get our Christmas tree up.

That's a lot of updating to cover a lot of months!  We're taking a bit of a break over the winter now while we gear up to start the second big part of the renovation - gutting the rest of the existing house and adding a dormer to the back, plus finishing the basement, redoing the front yard and its retaining walls, and various and sundry other tasks.  For now, focusing on what is done so we can take the rest of this project one step at a time.  Happy New Year!  

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Patio, Floors, and More

 Time for another annual(ish) update!  We've been working away at our usual, which is to say slow, speed on things inside and out.  First up, after record setting rain last summer/fall, we finally managed to complete most of the patio.  We still need to build stairs and a grill pad once the a/c unit is moved, and we'll landscape near the house once that's done but the patio is in, plants are growing on the rocks, and landscape lighting has been installed.  So there is visible progress and a very usable space at last!

A patio!  With firepit and some plants taking root

View from the other side

Come on over for a drink and s'mores!

And you can see quite a different between the addition and the still-in-progress part of the house (no, the stairs will not always be made of pallets and the white brick will not always look like that)

Bella does a good impersonation of a mountain goat on the rocks

Moving indoors, we started flooring in the addition using an extra wide plank European white oak.  I'm still on the fence about the wall color (Benjamin Moore Silver Chain) as it came out darker than expected but I promised not to repaint until everything is installed.  So if I change my mind later, it'll be especially difficult to repaint it.  This seems like a really good plan.

About to get started - kitchen cabinets will be along the unpainted wall

The addition is about 43 feet from front to back so a laser is crucial!

That's a better sense of how long this room is!  The kitchen will be in the far end, with a family room towards the front.  Install is nail down with glue assist.

And once we finished the first floor, we moved up to start the master bedroom on the second floor.  More progress pictures to come!

We've also been ordering other finishes, including kitchen cabinets and bathroom fixtures and tile, and battling decision fatigue along the way.  For the first time, we're using custom made cabinets and it has been a process to make all our decisions upfront.  Usually, we have the luxury of ordering cabinets with a general plan in mind and then finalizing the layout and choosing appliances as we go.  But since everything is being built to order, we had to dial in the specifics, including selecting our appliances, relatively early on.  One benefit of this process, though, is that we now have a drawing of what it should all look like when it's done.  So sometime between now and a long time from now, our kitchen should look something like this:

It's a modern look and quite a departure from our previous Craftsman-like houses.  Hoping it all comes together as planned - and more updates to come as cabinets and appliances arrive and we work on install!

Monday, September 21, 2020

Digging in

Notwithstanding the quiet on the blog, we're still here and oh-so-slowly working away on the house.  Needless to say, starting a major construction project during a pandemic is not exactly a great idea and, had we known what was coming, we would have just hunkered down for awhile.  But once we broke ground and things looked like this, there was no going back (though we did pause and then slowed things down considerably to follow guidelines):

Here we go!

This is now a basement

Inspector Bella (in her safety harness) checked the work.  Approved.

Give me the keys, I'm ready to drive this thing.

Skipping waaaay forward, the addition is on.  The inside is still just a shell and we've had more problems with our contractor than I care to relive so let's just go to an exterior picture.  This is only phase I - we'll also put a big shed dormer on the back, which will ultimately lead to a roof deck on the new addition but it's starting to come together.

Oh hello, new space!

Easy to tell what is old and what is new here

Your eyes are not deceiving you in that last picture - we also bought another bobcat.  That's right, this is the third bobcat we've now owned.  If you had asked me in 2010 if I thought we would own three different bobcats - each one bigger and fancier than the last - by 2020, I would have said no.  And also would have said some other words. we are!  This one is a S650 and it has a fully enclosed cab, heat/ac, and a radio.  Brian has easily spent more time in it this summer than he has in his truck.  I would say that's a result of the pandemic might have happened anyway.

We usually focus on the interior first but given that our yard was all torn up from the addition, we moved onto the outside late this summer.  Right in time for record-setting amounts of rain through August.  Which was not helpful.  At all.

But, we've finally had a few good weekends and have made some progress.  We tore out all the old shrubbery that was taking up a lot of space and the uneven patio and started fresh.  The old yard had two tiers with a steep grass slope between them, an uneven stone staircase, and a lot of shrubs and bushes encroaching on the grass.  Although it made a nice obstacle course for Bella, it wasn't very usable for us.

We decided to put in two tiers of retaining walls to square the space up and have room for a big patio.  We've done paver retaining walls in the past but decided to try something different this time.  In our heads, trying something new was a fun and exciting idea.  In reality, it was still exciting but not in a good way and definitely not in a fun way.  Alas.

We went with gabion walls and, in our original vision, planned to put in 56 feet of wall for both tiers, with a staircase in the middle.  Once the gabion cages arrived and we started tearing everything up, we at least had the (minimal) good sense to pause and re-evaluate the plan.  We realized that putting the stairs in the middle would be both technically more difficult and would break up the patio space in a way that we didn't like.  So, we moved the stairs to the far side.  Then we changed the staircase plan from bluestone pavers to natural steppers.  Then we decided we needed some bigger retaining walls to flank the gabions and ordered 15 tons on boulders. a lot of boulders.  And it's even more boulders when the rock company delivers nearly 20 tons instead of 15.  That was quite a day.  Turns out that 20 tons of boulders consumes most of the space on a two car driveway and all of my sanity.  

After I stopped panicking about the mass of boulders, Brian got into the bobcat and started moving material around.  Step one was to install the staircase.  Each step weighs over 500 pounds so the bobcat had to do the heavy lifting here.  We were generally able to get the stairs in from the side and then used a breaker bar, a burke bar, leverage, and a lot of shoving to get them settled into place.  By ourselves.  Quite a few Advil were sacrificed for the cause.

You can sort of see in this picture how the old grass slope just came down a steep hill and fell into the lower level.  It was not very usable.

Once the stairs were in place, it was time to start grading and get the boulders in.  Building the rock walls to frame the stairs  

Skipping forward a bit, we started setting the gabion cages into place for the first tier.  We ended up using six 7' cages for a total of 42 feet.

At this point, we called in some helpers because there was a lot of stone to move, plus we needed to get the waterproofing in behind the wall and get the drainage dug and installed.  We had hoped to be able to drop the rocks into the cages with the bobcat bucket but they really needed to be handplaced to keep everything straight and stable.

Moving along with the gabion cages

Now this is a lot of rock in place!  Plus landscape fabric and dimple board behind the wall and an unseen drainage pipe at the bottom.  Really hoping this wall lasts a long time!  And starting on the second tier, which is seven 7' cages, so a bit longer than the lower tier.

And with two tiers of wall in place, plus drainage.  I marvel at how easy it all looks as the pictures scroll forward.  It was not easy.  But they're nice and straight and seem very solid!

Once the walls were in, it was back to installing boulders so we could close off the ends and start grading the slope properly.  Plus installing more drains.  We've had more than a few moments recalling how, before we started any of this, we waved our hands at the slope and said "oh, we'll install some walls over here and some over there and it'll all be so easy and great!"  Hah.  Hahahaha.

Between the constant rain and the sheer amount of work and material involved in this project, it seemed like it would never get done but here we are, definitely not done-done but making some very clear progress.  One last weekend of drain installation, grading, sod installation and plantings on one side.  We put phlox, stonecrop, sedum angelina, and blue rug juniper on/between the boulders and we'll see how they grow.  The big (sort of finished) reveal:

Now that's a side yard!

Oh right, we had some steppers left so added another little staircase here because why not move some more rock around?

Hoping these little plants grow well and expand over the rocks

All planted now, hopefully happy in their new home

Not bad for a(nother) weekend of work

We still have a lot to do, including installing a paver patio and fire pit on the main level, a garden bed between the retaining wall tiers, finishing the other side of the retaining walls, and grading and installing sod on the other side.  Plus we'll keep working on cutting back the foliage around the edge of the yard to expand the space.  But the entire side yard pictured above used to be a tangle of ivy and overgrown bushes so we've already reclaimed a lot of space and, we think, it all looks intentional and usable now.  This was a much, much bigger project than we thought it would be (a repeat theme around here - wonder if we'll ever learn?) but it's coming along and we can finally see an end in sight...for the yard at least.  Once the backyard is done, we'll have to turn back to the addition and see if we can move things along there.  But for now, we're going to call this a partial success!  And the end of a long overdue post.